Bucs need ‘extraordinary’ offer to trade RB Jones

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TAMPA, Fla. — Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said it would take an “extraordinary” offer to trade away running back Ronald Jones, who had been overtaken by Leonard Fournette this year in the starting role.

Arians said on Oct. 20 that Jones was not available via trade, but that hasn’t stopped speculation about his availability, especially given Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry suffering a potentially season-ending foot injury and Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s close relationship with Titans general manager Jon Robinson.

The NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. ET.

“It would have to be something really, really special. Because I love the way he’s running,” Arians said of Jones, the Bucs’ second-round draft pick in 2018. “It’s just one nick on Leonard and then Rojo’s the guy. And so to me, it’s still a great one-two punch. It would have to be extraordinary.”

Jones started 22 games for the Bucs between 2019 and 2020, but suffered a fractured finger and was diagnosed with COVID-19 last season, opening the door for Fournette, who led the Bucs with 448 yards from scrimmage in four postseason games. Fournette’s performance earned him the nickname “Playoff Lenny,” and later, “Lombardi Lenny.”

Fournette’s 439 rushing yards put him 15th in the NFL and he’s averaging 4.35 yards per carry. His 678 yards from scrimmage puts him 10th in the league among running backs, while Jones is averaging 4.41 yards per carry but with far fewer carries this season. Fournette has carried the ball 101 times, versus Jones’ 44 carries.

The knock on Jones has been his hands — an area Jones has worked hard to try and improve, but a key reason the Bucs brought in Giovani Bernard as their third-down back. Jones has only been targeted six times in the passing game this season, but has managed four catches for 39 receiving yards.

Arians also provided an update on Rob Gronkowski’s back spasms, which forced him to leave Sunday’s 36-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints after just five snaps.

It was Gronkowski’s first game back since suffering cracked ribs and a punctured lung in Week 3. Arians said he was unsure of the severity of Gronkowski’s injury, which, as Arians explained Monday, is somewhat connected to the rib injury.

“I have no idea with this back. It just spasmed up,” Arians said. “We don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.”

Gronkowski had undergone three spine surgeries from 2009 to 2016 to repair herniated discs and fractured vertebrae.

On Sunday, Arians admitted that Gronkowski “probably shouldn’t have played” against the Saints but that he was “begging to get in there and re-injured himself.”

Arians was also unsure if starting cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis — both on injured reserve — would be able to return after the bye week. Murphy-Bunting suffered a dislocated elbow against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, while Davis suffered a quad injury against the New England Patriots in Week 4.

“I think we’ll know more when we get back, but Sean and Carlton look like they’re making really good progress and Scotty Miller is also,” Arians said.

Miller has been on injured reserve for the last month because of a significant turf toe injury. Per NFL rules, players must miss a minimum of three games while on IR.

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