Buccaneers: Will 2021 be the finale for RB Ronald Jones in Tampa?

Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

How long will the Buccaneers hold on to Ronald Jones?

The Ronald Jones saga with the Buccaneers has been one of many highs and lows. The highs include a Super Bowl ring, an impressive 2020 campaign, and general improvements as a runner throughout the past three seasons. The lows were a terrible rookie season, inconsistency in the passing game, and getting benched in the playoffs due to injury.

Ronald Jones is a difficult player to evaluate for the Buccaneers, especially for someone who proudly wears his jersey on game days. Jones has shown that he is a top-ten, maybe top-five running back in the league at his peak, but putting it all together has been a struggle.

For those who are already laughing off the top-five assertion, the stats and game performances tell no lies.

Ronald Jones has dominated at times with the Buccaneers

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During 2020, which was RoJo’s best season as a runner, he finished with 5.1 yards per rush and 978 yards on the ground. Without injuries and a strange reliance on Antonio Brown in the final game, Jones could have easily finished above the 1,000-yard mark.

5.1 yards per rush is well within the realm of best backs in the NFL from a leading role, but the receiving is where Jones falls short.

Jones had a terrible rookie season as a receiver, a much better sophomore season, and year three was a step in the wrong direction. After a 31 reception, 309-yard campaign through the air in 2019, Jones regressed in 2020 with more targets, fewer catches, and almost half as many yards.

If Jones could combine his running ability from 2020 with his catching ability from 2019, a top-five ranking amongst running backs is not far off. Finding that consistency is what’s needed.

Even after this great season on the ground, paying RoJo in free agency seems like a long shot for now. With players like Chris Carson and Aaron Jones walking in free agency, one has to ask what Jones brings that necessitates a stay in Tampa relative to a free agent payday.

Assuming Jones wants comparable pay to other top-ten backs in the league, the Bucs give off the impression that they will let their starting back walk. Running back is the most volatile position in the NFL and is the easiest to replace, so paying Jones based on his production makes little sense.

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Paying running backs rarely works. Just look at Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, etc. See the pattern? Paying running backs is a disastrous prospect, and the Bucs can’t afford to pay Jones a fraction of what the previous players have earned.

There is still time for RoJo to earn an extension in Tampa, but the odds are currently long for a deal that benefits both sides at the current rate. 2021 will play a massive role in the opportunity to keep the partnership alive.

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