Donnie Jones thought he had earned another year with the Houston Texans, but when that didn't seem to be working out, Jones was happy to sign on with the Eagles, who announced him Monday as their new punter.
The Eagles released Mat McBriar, the former Cowboys Pro Bowler who beat out Chas Henry last season, but never seemed to come all the way back to the form he showed before a nerve problem caused by a cyst derailed his career.
Jones, 32, is a nine-year vet who was an All-Pro choice twice, with the Rams in 2008 and 2009. He also has punted for the Dolphins and Seahawks. Last season, he was signed because Texans punter Brett Hartmann had to serve a three-game illegal substance suspension, but Jones ended up winning the job outright. He finished the year with a 47.2-yard gross and a 40.5-yard net, with 28 punts downed inside the 20. McBriar had a 46.5-yard gross but a 36.5-yard net, in part a reflection of the Eagles' poor coverage. He dropped 13 punts inside the 20.
"They had told us really numerous times throughout the offseason they wanted to re-sign me," Jones told a conference call with Philadelphia reporters Monday. "I know I was told that in the exit meeting, when I met with the GM (Rick Smith). They were real happy with the year I had, definitely wanted to bring me back ... in the end, it didn't work out. (Agent Drew Rosenhaus) had talked to Howie Roseman at the owners' meetings (last week), and we were able to get something worked out then.
"I really wasn't waiting on (the Texans, who signed Shane Lechler to a three-year deal over the weekend). My thought is that Philadelphia really wanted me here. You always want to go somewhere where you're wanted. After meeting with the special teams coach here, Dave Fipp, and with coach (Chip) Kelly, I'm really thankful to be here and have an opportunity to work with these guys."
Jones joins Texans-in-exile James Casey, Connor Barwin and DeMeco Ryans. He is the Birds' ninth free agent signing this offseason, and continues a trend at attempting to shore up the team's dreadful 2012 special teams units.
"Donnie Jones is a guy we have admired over the last several years," Roseman, the Eagles' general manager, said in a statement released by the team. "He has one of the strongest legs in the entire NFL, and we're excited we had a chance to sign him.. We watched a lot of tape on him, and he's coming off a very good season with Houston. We feel he'll add a good element to our special teams units."
Roseman praised McBriar as a "consummate professional" in the way he battled back from surgery to solve the nerve problem.