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Jun. 13 -
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired Arizona Cardinals running back Thomas Jones on Friday in exchange for wide receiver Marquise Walker, dealing from a position of strength to bolster a needier spot on the roster.
“This is a trade that should be good for both parties,” said Buccaneers General Manager Rich McKay. “Thomas will have an opportunity to come in here and compete, and he certainly has the traits to be a productive player for us. Marquise was caught in a situation where playing time would have been limited and, therefore, this trade will give him a chance to go and compete for more playing time.”
Jones, a former first-round draft pick heading into his fourth NFL season, has 362 career carries for 1,264 yards (3.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns. He also caught 73 passes for 472 yards in his three seasons in Arizona. Jones was the Cardinals' second-leading rusher in 2002 despite playing in just nine games, picking up 511 yards on 138 carries (3.7 avg.) and scoring two touchdowns. His finest day as a pro came at Seattle on September 15, when he led the Cardinals to a 24-13 win, rushing for a career-best 173 yards on 24 carries. Like Walker, Jones had his 2002 season cut short by injury, as he missed the last six games due to a fractured bone in his right hand.
Walker was the Bucs' third-round draft pick in 2002, the team's first selection under Head Coach Jon Gruden. A collegiate standout at Michigan, Walker did not appear in a regular-season game for Tampa Bay, landing on the inactive list for four games before a thumb injury sustained in practice pushed him to injured reserve. The Bucs' three primary receivers from last season – Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius – are all expected to maintain their roles in 2003.
Player-for-player trades are much more of a rarity in the NFL than in the other major sports. During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, there were a total of five trades in the entire league that involved at least one player on both sides, and most were unremarkable, such as the Bucs' own deal in that span: WR Eddie Hardaway to the New York Jets for punter David Leaverton.
Jones was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 draft after a prolific career at Virginia. He played in 14 games with four starts as a rookie, rushing 373 yards and two touchdowns on 112 carries and adding 32 receptions for 208 yards. In 2001, he served as a backup to future Buccaneer runner Michael Pittman and started just two games. His stats were nearly identical to those of his rookie season: 112 carries for 380 yards and five touchdowns.
At Virginia, Jones broke Tiki Barber's school record with 3,998 rushing yards, posting the fourth-highest total in Atlantic Coast Conference history. A first-team All-America choice as a senior (1,798 yards), Jones scored a touchdown in 16 consecutive games from 1997-99 and finished with 40 career scores.
He is actually the second former Cavalier back the Buccaneers have added in the last 10 days. On June 3, Tampa Bay signed Terry Kirby, who finished his Virginia career in 1992.
For the second straight year, Tampa Bay has added a significant player just before their annual FanFest at Raymond James Stadium. Last summer, the Bucs finalized a deal with wide receiver Keenan McCardell on the morning of June 8, just before that Saturday's FanFest was to begin.