Buccaneers should have made proposed trade at the deadline

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers made a mistake for themselves and their player by holding on to Ronald Jones.

It wasn’t popular at the time, but the conjecture that the Buccaneers needed to trade Ronald Jones likely should have received much more time and effort from the coaching staff.

Fans and apparently Bruce Arians alike hated the idea of destroying Tampa’s one-two punch of Jones and Leonard Fournette, and the added stability in the event of an injury to Fournette was nice, but the recent games tell a very different story.

If Arians really did see this backfield as having a thunder and lightning dynamic, Jones would actually get carries. Instead, Jones has only carried the ball 19 times since the start of November. These 19 carries have gone for two touchdowns and 80 yards, but this is a massive change from the player we saw last season, and it is hard to argue that this is genuinely a split backfield.

The Bucs can’t be worried about Fournette facing an injury because they have no issue leaving him on the field for the majority of offensive snaps each week. Fournette even stays on the field in some third-down situations, taking snaps away from Giovanni Bernard.

There is clearly little worry amongst the staff that their starting running back is in any danger as of now, which makes the decision to keep Jones even more puzzling.

Trading Jones was never about picks or compensation. The Bucs were never going to get a starting corner or even a pick that would be better than any future comp picks. The trade was about making space.

While Jones has already seen a fraction of the touches he was given last season, Ke’Shawn Vaughn has been relegated to an even lesser role himself, not just two full seasons after Tampa drafted him in the third round.

Does anyone believe that Vaughn couldn’t average four yards per carry and a touchdown or two in Jones’ current role of three to four touches per game? Isn’t that why the Bucs drafted him in the first place? Now, the Bucs have likely forced Jones out at the end of the season, and they are no closer to seeing what Ke’Shawn Vaughn can do.

Fournette looks like the obvious choice to retain the role going forward, but it still doesn’t make sense to see how the Bucs have handled their running back room this season. The lead back in Tampa has been a ton of fun to watch, but the decisions by the coaching staff to stay the course with the reps with Vaughn essentially serving as a healthy scratch on offense is hard to follow.

Unfortunately, this decision to hold on to Jones to not use him is only hurting his future and Vaughn’s future, and the Bucs need to be willing to make the hard decisions if they want to make the most of their roster pieces.

The good news is that Fournette is rolling, and it doesn’t look like he will stop any time soon. But the Bucs do need to figure out what Vaughn can do, and soon.

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