When the Kansas City Chiefs signed running back Ronald Jones to the roster earlier this offseason in free agency, it meant different things to different people. On the surface, it simply added another running back to a lacking group knowing that Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon had both hit the open market. Beyond that, Jones’ presence represented something more—that is, if a fan wanted to interpret it that way.
Some fans immediately took to the signing and declared Jones to be a great addition to the team. That sentiment seemed like one fueled by the fact that Jones was a second-round pick as recently as 2018, and that he came from a Super Bowl-winning team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What are the Kansas City Chiefs expecting from Ronald Jones in the backfield this year? And what does his contract tell us, if anything?
Jones also had a very solid season just two years ago in 2020 when he rushed 192 times for 978 yards and 7 touchdowns in 13 starts. That was good for a healthy 5.1 yards/carry average and gave Jones his second-straight season with 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
That optimism fades a bit when looking at Jones in 2021. Jones began the season competing with Leonard Fournette for the lead back role, but the Bucs went with Fournette and Jones’ numbers took a considerable hit. He ended the year with only 428 yards on 101 carries and 4 touchdowns and 10 catches for 64 more yards. Despite playing in all 16 games, he set a career-low 30.8 yards per contest.
The Chiefs were able to sign Jones away from the Bucs for a near-minimum deal of $1.5 million for a single season. For perspective, that’s slightly less than the Atlanta Falcons gave former Chiefs back Damien Williams and the same as the Jets gave Tevin Coleman.
Given the range of the financial investment, it seems a bit odd to have outsized expectations for Jones in 2022. That’s not to say that he cannot or will not be productive. Rather, it just means that his contract says he’s been brought onto the roster to compete for reps alongside Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Derrick Gore, Isiah Pacheco, and Jerrion Ealy.
Jones’ toughness works well in tandem with others on the roster at present, and it makes sense to believe he’ll be given a real chance in K.C. However, the team also claimed off of a down season in Tampa Bay and is paying him like a minor contributor. For those envisioning anything more than that, it’s certainly a nice thought but nothing is guaranteed for Jones in 2022. The Chiefs aren’t paying him enough for that.