The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are losing one of their more notable players to a familiar AFC rival.
Jones had played a pivotal role in the Buccaneers’ rushing attack since he was selected with a second-round draft pick in 2018. The 24-year-old led the Buccaneers in rushing during the 2019 (724 yards) and 2020 seasons (978 yards).
However, the young back fell out of favor when he lost his starting job to free agent signee Leonard Fournette entering the postseason in 2020. Fournette emerged as the clear go-to option as he ran for 300 yards and three touchdowns during the team’s playoff run to the Super Bowl.
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How Jones Fell out of Favor With Buccaneers
Head coach Bruce Arians was a notable critic of Jones during his tenure in Tampa Bay. Following Jones’ costly fumble against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, he didn’t receive a carry for the remainder of the game.
Arians was brutally honest following the game on why Jones didn’t receive another carry, via Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times:
“He struggled mentally to get over it,” said Arians.
It wasn’t too long after that Jones was in Arians’ doghouse once again. After missing a blitz on a sack versus the Atlanta Falcons the following week, the veteran head coach once again took aim on his young running back.
“Yeah, it speaks for itself, you know?” Arians said in September via Stroud. “Ro, that’s his guy. He’s got to get out of those type of situations. I thought he ran hard and protected the ball. But again, you can’t have those mental errors.”
Jones continued to play a key role for Tampa Bay during the 2021 season, even starting three games while Fournette was sidelined, but it’s clear he had taken a backseat role to Fournette.
The Buccaneers re-signed Fournette to a three-year deal earlier this week. With Jones out of the mix, it appears they’ll lean on Ke’Shawn Vaughn to play a bigger role after he carried the ball 25 times in the final three weeks of the regular season.
Jones figures to play in a two-back committee with the Chiefs with Clyde Edwards-Helaire the only other running back on the roster. Kansas City’s other primary backs from last season — Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon — are currently free agents.
Licht Doesn’t Shut Down Idea of Adding Mayfield
Could the Buccaneers be in the mix in the Baker Mayfield sweepstakes?
During an interview on SiriusXM’s “Mad Dog Radio,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht didn’t shut down speculation that Tampa Bay could add the disgruntled Cleveland Browns quarterback.
“I don’t want to talk about a player that’s on another team’s roster right now, but we may still add a veteran quarterback,” Licht said Wednesday of the idea of adding Mayfield. “We’re going to have to see how it goes here.”
Mayfield is currently being shopped by the Browns in a potential trade, with the Seattle Seahawks emerging as a possible suitor for the No. 1 overall pick.
Considering Mayfield is due nearly $19 million for the 2022 season, a trade for the veteran quarterback doesn’t seem likely for the Buccaneers.