WR-KR Mark Jones (Andy Lyons/Getty)
The Bolts signed former Buccaneers WR-KR Mark Jones to an undisclosed contract on Friday. Jones (5'9", 185 pounds) has the best shot at making the roster as a punt returner, as he's accumulated more than 1,000 punt return yards in his four-year career.
Mark Jones was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 after a stellar career at Tennessee. He played on offense, defense and special teams as a Volunteer before being selected with the No. 206 overall pick in the draft.
Jones was cut by the Buccaneers in 2004 and spent his rookie season with the New York Giants. He played in 13 games for the Giants, returning 34 punts for 227 yards (6.7 avg.).
Jones was released by the Giants after the '04 season, at which point he re-signed with the team that drafted him into the league. He spent the next three years with the Bucs, returning 83 punts for 790 yards (9.52 avg) during that time.
In 2005, Jones led the league with 51 punt returns, which he turned into a career-high 492 return yards. Last season, he finished sixth in the league in punt yards per return (11.9) amongst players with at least 10 returns.
Jones' season was cut short last year after a knee injury landed him on the injured-reserve list on Oct. 24. He has since recovered from that injury and is ready to go full speed for training camp.
In San Diego, Jones will compete against Darren Sproles and Buster Davis for punt return duties.
“Mark’s versatility was very attractive to us,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “He’s an experienced NFL punt returner and a solid player who will raise the level of competition in our camp.”
Sproles enjoyed a terrific season in 2007, when he returned 29 punts for 229 yards and a touchdown. However, he may need to focus more on offense this season with the departure of Michael Turner.
Davis returned six kicks for 52 yards last season and could see more time shagging punts in 2008. However, he also have offensive responsibilities to worry about, as he looks to improve on the meager 20 receptions he posted as a rookie.
Nonetheless, Jones will need a strong training camp and preseason to unseat either of the incumbents.
The Chargers waived four players on Friday: CB Stanley Franks, G Charles Manu, RB Germaine Race and DT Keith Shologan.