The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to terms with free-agent running back Leonard Fournette on a one-year contract worth a max value of $3.5 million Wednesday night.
On Thursday, coach Bruce Arians insisted Ronald Jones would continue to be the starting RB.
“It’s his job. Nothing has changed for him,” Arians said of Jones, via NFL Network’s James Palmer.
The veteran coach noted that Fournette will have to earn his role out of the backfield, and he doesn’t see Jones losing snaps.
“It’s his job, he’s got it, he’s got to screw it up to lose it and I don’t see that happening,” Arians continued.
Adding Fournette to a backfield that already boasted Jones, LeSean McCoy, Dare Ogunbowale, third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn and seventh-round pick Raymond Calais would seem superfluous. Arians, however, insisted that running back is one position at which you can never have enough good players.
The addition of Fournette should jumble the roles Jones and McCoy were set to play, but Arians said the latter duo will continue in their parts. Jones should start off as the early-down back with McCoy playing a third-down and pass-catching role.
“RoJo’s our guy. Shady’s ready for his role,” Arians said.
How long RoJo stays the guy remains to be seen.
Arians has a history of blowing smoke when it comes to the RB room. The coach once suggested Andre Ellington could handle 30 carries a game and would be the focal point of the offense back when Arians was with the Cardinals — neither of those things happened. Even last year, he claimed he wanted to build the offense around Peyton Barber before RoJo swiped the gig as the season wore on.
That’s not to suggest Arians is outright lying when it comes to the Jones/Fournette/McCoy situation. We’re simply pointing out that the coach has a history of flying by the seat of his pants when it comes to the RB room. What is true today might not be true in a fortnight.
The Bucs wouldn’t have signed Fournette to $2 million in base salary to ride the pine. That much we know. He will have a role once he gets up to speed on the offense. The role will likely come at the expense of Jones’ and McCoy’s snaps. How many of those snaps Fournette gobbles up will depend on what the former Jag looks like when he gets into Tom Brady’s offense.
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