Has DE Jones Played His Last Game As A Buc?

September 3 – Tampa Bay placed left defensive end Marcus Jones on the injured reserve on Sunday, which ended his 2002 season and protected him for now, but will Jones' recent injuries along with his high salary cap figure force the Buccaneers to part ways with their 1996 first-round draft pick? Pewter Report has this unique take.


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Tampa Bay placed defensive end Marcus Jones on the injured reserve on Sunday, which ended his season. But this move could lead to another, meaning Jones might have played his final game as a Buccaneer.

There are several reasons why Jones' days in Tampa Bay may be numbered.

Jones, 29, was Tampa Bay's 1996 first-round draft pick, but he struggled during his first two seasons with the Bucs. Tampa Bay placed Jones on the expansion list in 1999, but the Cleveland Browns chose to pass on him. In 2000, Jones finally produced by recording a career-high 13 sacks. He was in a contract year, which is why the Bucs rewarded Jones with a seven-year, $40.25-million contract extension toward the end of the 2000 season.

But in 2001, the Bucs signed right defensive end Simeon Rice, which led to Tampa Bay's decision to move Jones over from right to left end. He didn't fare well though, finishing the 2001 season with just 39 tackles and three sacks. The team was not pleased with the return on their investment, so they placed Jones on the expansion list again in February, but this time, the Houston Texans passed on him and his $3.75 million per-year salary.

Jones was also bothered by a nagging shoulder injury toward the end of ‘01, which required offseason surgery and sidelined him for two of the team's three mini-camp sessions and at least a week worth of practices during training camp. While Jones rehabbed, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden tried to lure future Hall of Fame DE Reggie White out of retirement, but his attempt failed as White cited he was not in physical shape.

Tampa Bay backup DE Greg Spires filled in for Jones during offseason workouts and training camp, and performed very well. His impressive play along with Jones' poor play in preseason put Jones on the bubble in terms of making the 53-man roster this season. But when Jones went down with his knee injury in the Bucs' third preseason game against Washington, it might have actually saved him from being released. But that doesn't mean Jones will remain a Buc past the 2002 season.

In addition to his $3.75 million per-year salary, Jones is scheduled to receive a $1 million roster bonus on April 1, 2003. The decision to place Jones on the IR was a wise one. It will allow Tampa Bay to take a hard look at Spires, who signed a three-year deal with the Bucs this offseason, and determine whether the team is better off with or without Jones. If Spires shines in Jones' place, Jones likely will be cut loose during the '03 offseason. If Spires falls flat on his face this season, the team has the option of giving Jones another chance next season.

Tampa Bay also kept a few promising defensive ends on its 53-man roster. Rookie DE Corey Smith, second-year DE Ron Warner and second-year DE/DT Ellis Wyms all played well during the preseason. These three players' salaries combined are less than Jones', and a strong outing by each of them in '02 could add three more reasons to push Jones out of Tampa Bay.

Jones' knee injury was only supposed to sideline him for three to six weeks. The fact that the Bucs were not willing to wait for him to heal is very telling. In fact, the Bucs could opt to release Jones once he is healthy, or they could even try to trade him. The Bucs could also try and reach an injury settlement with Jones this season.

What will the Bucs do with Jones? They have several options, but the team's actions during the offseason along with the decision they made on Sunday wouldn't really support someone trying to make a case for Jones remaining a Buc. By placing Jones on the IR, Tampa Bay apparently felt they were better off without Jones this season, which could suggest he's played his last game as a Buccaneer.


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