clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ronald Jones is guaranteed nothing in his first Cowboys training camp

Despite his NFL experience, Ronald Jones will still be in a fight for his roster spot as the backup to Tony Pollard.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, running back Ronald Jones II could feel like a shoo-in to make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster in 2023. But while he’ll arrive in Oxnard, CA with plenty of experience and two Super Bowl rings, Jones shouldn't expect to simply be handed a spot on the depth chart. He should be ready for a fight at this year’s training camp.

Jones was signed last March about a week after the release of Ezekiel Elliott. The sixth-year veteran spent four seasons in Tampa Bay, starting 13 games for the Bucs in 2020 when they won the Super Bowl. He was with the Chiefs last year for another championship run, but was buried on the depth chart and barely played.

Turning 26 next month, Jones is still at a prime age and has limited mileage from mostly playing in backup roles. He’s no Zeke, but he would seem to be Dallas’ band-aid option for replacing much of Elliott’s workload in the RB rotation. The Cowboys only want to increase Tony Pollard’s touches so much, not wanting to reduce his effectiveness.

Despite his experience, Jones didn’t get much job security with his new contract. It’s just a one-year, $1.23 million deal with only about $300k in guaranteed money. The Cowboys will have no problem eating that $300k if they feel like some other players in camp give them better value for this year’s roster.

That’s where things get a little hairy for Jones. Dallas is hardly lacking for options at RB this year; they’ve brought back Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis as developmental prospects, drafted Deuce Vaughn last April, and signed undrafted fullback Hunter Luepke. All of these guys have legitimate shots at making the team.

Vaughn seems like a roster lock despite being just a sixth-round pick. Drawing Darren Sproles comparisons for his size and offensive versatility, Vaughn would have to have a pretty miserable camp to change the sense that he’s already part of the Cowboys’ offensive planning.

Dowdle has been plagued by injuries the last two years but is a proven special teams stud, both in coverage and as a backup for kick returns. He may be the most complete back of the bunch. If he can finally stay healthy, Dowdle’s ability to play multiple roles makes him hard to dismiss.

Davis was elevated from the practice squad last year after Dowdle’s ankle injury. He’s flashed some things as a ball carrier but doesn’t have the same special teams value. Still, the opportunity is there for Davis to outshine the competition as a rusher and be Pollard’s primary backup.

Luepke is one of the more intriguing figures in this year’s camp. His skills as a rusher and receiver are what had him on the NFL’s radar more than his blocking, and that seems a good fit for what Mike McCarthy is looking to do with the Cowboys’ offense. If he really hits the ground running, Luepke could even threaten some of the RB candidates as a short-yardage option.

Clearly, the veteran Jones has competition. And if financial matters are taken into account, all four of these younger guys are more attractive. Dallas still has Vaughn and Luepke locked up on cheap rookie deals, plus RFA and ERFA options on Dowdle and Davis. Comparatively, Jones will be an unrestricted free agent again in 2024.

Ronald Jones certainly could make this team, and may even be a favorite to do so this summer. But while we tend to pencil in free-agent signings when doing roster projections, Jones’ claim on a spot is tenuous at best. With money not an issue, and really almost working against him, Jones will have to be better than the rest to stick with the Cowboys in 2023.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys