Ronald Jones joined the Chiefs this offseason, but he may not even make it to the regular season with his new squad. As Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports writes, the veteran RB “may find himself on the outside looking in” once the Chiefs reduce their roster to 53 players.
When Jones first joined the Chiefs, he was considered a potential starter or (at the very least) a high-level backup for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Reports out of Kansas City don’t seem to indicate that Jones has necessarily done anything to lose his job. Rather, it’s been the performance of Kansas City’s other RBs that has put Jones’ gig in jeopardy.
While Edwards-Helaire has consistently been the No. 1 running back during training camp, the Chiefs have given extended looks at Jones, veteran Jerick McKinnon, and seventh-round rookie Isaih Pacheco as the No. 2 RB. As Jones writes, Pacheco has “already turned heads,” while McKinnon has the luxury of having already spent a year in Kansas City’s system. The Chiefs could realistically keep all four of those aforementioned running backs, but considering Jones’ lack of versatility, the organization may prefer to keep a less experienced option (like Derrick Gore or UDFA Tayon Fleet-Davis) instead of a veteran who probably won’t leave the bench.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was recently complimentary of Jones’ energy, but he seemed to hint that the player’s lack of pass-catching and/or blocking prowess is still a work in progress.
“RoJo is doing a heck of a job,” Bieniemy said (h/t to Charles Goldman of ChiefsWire). “He’s obviously a big man, he’s done some good things running the football.
“He just needs to continue becoming the football player we expect him to be because we expect our guys to do a lot from that running back position. The thing that he’s done is he’s accepted the challenge and he’s doing things he really hasn’t done in the past.”
Jones found himself in and out of the lineup during his four years in Tampa Bay. He had his best season in 2020, finishing with 978 rushing yards and seven touchdowns before collecting another 139 rushing yards in the postseason. He spent the majority of the 2021 campaign behind Leonard Fournette on the depth chart, and after topping 1,000 yards from scrimmage in both 2019 and 2020, he finished last year with only 492 total yards.
The 25-year-old has averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per carry throughout his career, but he’s never been able to establish a role in the passing game. In four season, Jones has hauled in 76 receptions. For comparison’s sake, McKinnon has twice as many career receptions despite playing only two more seasons than his teammate. It goes beyond the counting stats; while Jones didn’t have enough snaps to qualify for Pro Football Focus’ grades, he would have ranked in the bottom-fourth among RBs in pass-catching ability. Jones also earned ugly grades in his blocking prowess, including a pass-blocking score that would have ranked as the second-worst among all RBs.
The Chiefs inked Jones to a one-year, $1.5MM contract this past offseason. The team could recoup about half of that cap hit by releasing the veteran. That $750K savings isn’t significant enough to make a major impact on the cap sheet, and that’s why if the Chiefs do ultimately move on from Jones, the move probably won’t be attributed to money.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Jones doesn’t have a place in the NFL. However, he doesn’t seem to have a clear role in Kansas City, and that fact could ultimately earn him his walking papers by the end of the preseason.