Jones Gives Chiefs Potent Running Back Combo

Al Bello - Getty

Four long days after quietly re-signing their own former players and free agents, the Chiefs reached into the pond and pulled out a big fish. Running back Thomas Jones was the third-best rusher in the NFL in 2009, and is coming off a career-best effort with the New York Jets. Now he'll wear red and gold in 2010.

After failing to negotiate a pay cut with the Jets, Jones tested free agency and joined the Chiefs on Tuesday, signing a two-year contract.

It was no secret that the Chiefs were targeting a running back to complement third-year back Jamaal Charles. After reportedly pursuing Darren Sproles, Justin Fargas, and Willie Parker, the Chiefs settled with Jones. At 31, he'll be Kansas City's backup running back, and could provide the one-two punch at running back the Chiefs have lacked since Priest Holmes was paired with Larry Johnson in 2005.

Regardless of his spot on the depth chart, Jones is a power back who will mix in well with the Chiefs. He's a locker room favorite who was voted 2008 and 2009 recipient of the Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Player Award by his Jets teammates. Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2008 after rushing for 1,312 yards with 13 touchdowns, and should have been selected again in 2009 after besting those statistics with 1,402 yards with 14 touchdowns.

What surely caught the eye of the Chiefs' coaching staff was Jones' control of the football – he has only lost two fumbles in four years. That will help in crucial situations, especially because Charles hasn't protected the ball that well. In two seasons of limited touches, Charles has fumbled six times and muffed a number of kickoff returns.

In 2009, Jones was the centerpiece of the NFL's best rushing attack in New York, and converted a critical fourth-down against San Diego that sealed the Jets' trip to the AFC Championship. He showed signs of fatigue towards the latter half of the season after his career-high 331 carries. In his place, rookie Shonn Greene supplemented Jones, a role that Charles will now take in Kansas City.

In New York, running behind Alan Faneca, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold - Pro Bowlers in 2009 - Jones may have been spoiled. He also enjoyed the services of Tony Richardson, a player Chiefs fans are familiar with. How will he fare in a new offensive system, behind a new offensive line?

It should be noted, however, that if Matt Cassel's struggles continue in 2010 for the Chiefs, Jones' presence could be beneficial. He helped both rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and the mediocre Rex Grossman to the playoffs and nearly a world championship in the last four seasons.

What is most apparent with Jones' signing is the Chiefs' desire to sign players who have been successful in the playoffs. Jones now stands with linebacker Mike Vrabel as a leader in the Chiefs' locker room and huddle. You won't find the words "Pro Bowl" or "Super Bowl" on the resumes of many of Jones' new Chiefs teammates. Scott Pioli and Todd Haley want to change that, especially in the case of a young star like Charles.

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