Flynn's Focus

July 1 – Some will say Marcus Jones was at a disadvantage when the Bucs moved him from right to left end last year, but Jones knows he'll have to deliver this season if he is to remain a Buc after 2002. Will Jones recover from shoulder surgery in time for training camp? Will DE Greg Spires unseat Jones as the team's starter? How does Jones' salary figure into his future with the Bucs? Jones is entering a critical season with the Bucs, and he's the subject of this installment of Flynn's Focus.

Flynn's Focus appears weekly on PewterReport.com
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Marcus Jones has seen better seasons than the one he had last year. While he has some legitimate reasons for his woes last season, the pressure to succeed will be on him twofold when Tampa Bay reports to training camp on July 28.

So, why is there going to be so much pressure on Jones this season? After all, he signed a seven-year contract extension at the end of the 2000 season – a season in which he recorded a career-high 13 sacks. The problems began during the 2001 offseason, when Tampa Bay signed DE Simeon Rice and moved Jones onto the right end and shifted Jones over to the left end of the defensive line. The transition wasn't an easy one for Jones, and it reflected in his play and statistics. Jones recorded just three sacks and 39 tackles in 15 games last season. He missed the final game of the regular season against Philadelphia after suffering a sprained shoulder against Baltimore, which required offseason shoulder surgery and sidelined him for all of the team's mini-camp practices.

Tampa Bay has made it clear that they're not pleased with the return on their investment. The Bucs made Jones available to Houston in the Expansion Draft – the second time Tampa Bay had placed Jones on an expansion list (1999 – Cleveland), but the Texans passed on him and his $3.75 million per year salary.

The Buccaneers signed free agent DE Greg Spires to replace backup DE Steve White, who departed Tampa Bay for New York via free agency. But Spires was the beneficiary of Jones' absence from the offseason mini-camps and has picked up Tampa Bay's defensive scheme much faster than anticipated. Spires will not likely unseat Jones as the team's starting left end this season, but if Spires can develop fast enough, Tampa Bay could opt to trade or release Jones during the 2003 offseason when several players' salaries escalate, including Jones, who scheduled to receive a $1 million roster bonus on April 1, 2003.

As Pewter Report first reported last month, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden attempted to lure future Hall of Fame DE Reggie White out of retirement earlier in the offseason. While White turned down the opportunity, one has to wonder what would have happened to Jones if White had in fact accepted Gruden's offer.

When Pewter Report inquired about his interest in White, Gruden certainly spoke highly of him.

"I love Reggie White," Gruden told Pewter Report in mid-June. "It was amazing how all of us became a lot smarter and better as coaches when Reggie came to Green Bay. You have to look under every rock in America to find any person like him. He's one of the greatest human beings I have ever met and one of the greatest clutch performers of all time. If he does decide he wants to play again, we'd love to have him in Tampa.

Jones is expected to fully recover from the shoulder surgery when the Buccaneers report to training camp in four weeks (July 28). Despite his inconsistent performance last season, Jones' 24 sacks still rank seventh in franchise history. Tampa Bay has a lot more invested in Jones than a long-term, multi-million dollar contract. Jones was Tampa Bay's 1996 first-round draft selection and the team would love to receive more of a return on their investment by seeing him heal from shoulder surgery, adjust to life at left defensive end and return to his 2000 form in 2002. And if Jones doesn't play well, the 2002 season could be his last as a Buc.


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Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com

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