Well, Donovan McNabb now is the longest-tenured Eagle.
(note: as a commenter below notes, David Akers actually signed in 1999 before McNabb was drafted. But they began their playing careers concurrently. So maybe it should be "Eagles' longest-tenured position player." Whatever.)
The Jacksonville Jaguars' Web site now has a story up following Tra Thpmas' press conference there announcing his agreement to play there. Here's the link.
It's been clear for a while now that the Eagles weren't intent on bringing Tra back for a 12th season. It is not clear exactly what they plan to do for a left offensive tackle. Move Shawn Andrews? Slide over Todd Herremans? Trade some of that stockpile of draft picks and pluck Jason Smith early in the first round?
Tra, meanwhile, "woke up excited" today, agent Peter Schaffer said. While Thomas's preference was to finish his career with the team that drafted him 11th overall in 1998, "Tra told me he'd always wondered what it would be like to play for another team, what it would feel like," Schaffer said. "Sometimes a move like this can rejuvenate a career, not that Tra needs rejuvenating."
Thomas, 34, is signing for three years, Schaffer said. He did not disclose financial terms, but obviously, the assumption is that Tra is getting more than what the Eagles offered going into free agency.
"Signing with Jacksonville was based on a number of factors. The contract was one of them," Schaffer said. "It's a great situation -- Tra's from Deland, Fla., right near Jacksonville, he's going back home. They have a need at the position" having allowed 2008 starter Khalif Barnes to enter free agency, with no plans to bring him back.
The Eagles released quotes from team president Joe Banner and coach Andy Reid on Thomas' departure late this afternoon:
Banner: “On behalf of the entire Eagles organization, I want to thank Tra Thomas for a fantastic 11-year run in Philadelphia. It’s not often that offensive lineman get much praise and attention for their hard work, leadership and Pro Bowl play. But Tra deserves every ounce of it, and I know that our fans feel equally appreciative for everything he has done for this organization and the Philadelphia community. We will miss him and wish him all the best as he continues his career with the Jaguars.”
Reid: “Tra has helped this organization win a lot of football games from a very important position on the football field, During his 11 years in this city, he’s been nothing but a true professional and leader, both on and off the field. Most importantly, he’s a proven winner in the National Football League and will go down as one of the finest offensive tackles in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles. We wish he and his family all of the best in Jacksonville.”
Here is the transcript of the Jags' press conference with Tra:
(Why did you sign here?) “This is a team that showed some interest in me. Also coming back home, I’m very excited about coming back and playing in my home area, in Florida.”
(How many teams were interested in you?) “Really not that many were biting at me. Once I came here and visited with Gene (Smith) and the offensive line coach, Andy (Heck), I knew that this was going to be a perfect fit for me.”
(How many years do you have left in the tank?) “I have several years left in the tank. I take good care of myself; I’m always in the weight room training. Actually I’m going to find a house to stay in so I can get here and start with the offseason program as soon as possible.”
(Were you surprised that Philadelphia didn’t make a more aggressive move to try to keep you?) “Not really. It was a shock to me, but I’m glad this worked out. I’m very excited to be here in Jacksonville.”
(This is a different kind of environment than Philadelphia, with the fans’ great expectations.) “Philly’s fans are passionate; I think all football fans are passionate about the game. They’re going to expect us to go out and win and I’m going to go out and do my part.”
(You were there with the same people for a long time. How difficult is the move going to be?) “You see right now I have my playbook right here. After I signed my contract that was the first thing I went and asked the coaches for, so I can forget 11 years of terminology and start remembering how they’re teaching it. At the end of the day it’s still football, it’s all the same stuff, it’s just the way they call it and the way they make the calls. I wanted to get into this playbook as soon as possible, so that starts today when I leave here.”
(Do you expect to be the starting left tackle on opening day?) “That’s the plan. I want to come in and just do whatever the team needs me to do. I just want to come in and prepare, and get myself prepared to start, and just do the best job that I can.”
(What are your thoughts on this team?) “I think they’re right there, just missing a couple of key positions. Hopefully I’m one of the key positions that’s going to come in and help turn this team around.”
(On your listed interests including French lessons, Broadway shows, opera, chess and Scattergories.) “Me and my wife decided to do some French lessons for a quick minute. But I was a bad student so I pretty much dropped out of that. But I do do the chess; I do a lot of Broadway shows. Being in Philly we did go to New York quite a few times and caught a couple plays. I like to do different stuff outside of this.”
(Not a lot of players would put those things in their bio.) “Well, I’m not a big hunter, I don’t like fishing because it can be a little boring sometimes unless you’re doing deep sea. I try to do a little golf sometimes, I try to do a little MMA training sometimes, if you want something a little bit more physical, something to do in the offseason as a little side-conditioning thing. Just stuff sitting around the house, good family stuff to do.”
(How did last season go for you?) “I felt like last year was probably one of my better years being an Eagle. I faced some of the top defensive ends last year with their sack numbers, and I shut down a lot of those guys; I only gave up two sacks during the regular season. I felt like I played pretty decent. Run-blocking has always been a challenge for me. That’s something that I’m definitely going to have to work on. I think that’s something that Andy (Heck) can really help me with. I’m just excited to get going here and earn everything that I can and just go out here and become a dominating force here in Jacksonville.”
(On coming to a team that runs more than his previous team.) “That’s something that we’re going to have to work on, and it’s good. I’m up to the challenge.”
(Character has been an emphasis here. Can you come in and meld in with the other guys who are here?) “That’s why I’m trying to get here as soon as possible, so that I can come in and build a relationship with the guys and just help out any way I can. I came up in a system with Juan Castillo as my coach there in Philadelphia, and I was trained to be the first one on the field and the last one off the field. So I came up in an environment where I’m used to hard work and I just want to share that with these guys. I don’t know what the situation is here since this is my first day here, but that’s why I want to get here as soon as possible, so I can get involved in the system, get around the guys, and then everything else will take care of itself.”
(Have you spoken with any of your new teammates yet?) “I met a couple of guys in the training room. And then Stuff (Stefan Rodgers) was in Philadelphia with me.”
(How many more years do you have left, in terms of how long you want to play here?) “I want to play here as long as I possibly can. I can’t even put a year on it. I’m just going to come in and just play as long as I can. I want to finish my football career here. I put in a goal to play 20 years, so I want to come in and play as long as I possibly can. I feel like if I continue to take care of myself it can definitely happen.”
(Were you surprised there wasn’t more interest?) “I guess a lot of teams already had their positions solidified. Me and my agent were talking about this – there were only a handful of teams that needed that position filled. And then too, with the draft coming up some people are waiting to see what’s going to happen in the draft and they try to hold back. But everything worked out in favor for me to come to this organization and be signed here today.”
(How long is the contract?) “It’s for a couple years.”
(What kind of a leadership role did you play in Philadelphia?) “I was just always around the guys, I had a great relationship with our offensive line; we usually went out to eat at least once a week. I broke the team down before we went into the locker room after warmups. I stayed there during the offseason. I’m the type of guy that when I’m with a team I’m all-in, so I lived in the city. I participated in all the offseason workouts. I was always the first one there. Every day I showed up at the facility at least at 6:30 in the morning and got my workout in and cardio. Some of my workout sessions, from the offensive line coach knowing how I was doing my workouts during the season, he had some of the younger guys come in and do the same stuff that I was doing. Lead by example. I’m not the type of person that’s going to jump in somebody’s face and yell and holler. We’re all professionals. But I can definitely show you the way.”
(How’s your back? that was the only issue that you ever had, right?) “Yes, my back was the only issue. My back is fine. That’s one of the reasons why I train, and I’ve got my weight down considerably. I played last year at around 320, where usually I was around 340, 335. This year I plan on getting down to about 310, 315, and playing at 315. So I feel that will just help with my longevity.”
(It doesn’t seem like to see yourself as a stop-gap.) “No, I don’t think so. I’m coming in here and just trying to stay here as long as possible. I’m going to do everything in my power to stay here.”
(And you have family here in Jacksonville?) “Yes, I have family here in Jacksonville. I have some cousins, a lot of cousins here.
(Are they Jaguars fans?) “Yes, they are. And if they aren’t they probably will be now. And I’m from right down the way in DeLand. This whole signing has just worked out big for me. My wife and my son share the same birthday, and we went down to Walt Disney World this weekend, and when my agent called me and told me we were going to sign it was just a quick drive up. And then the following weekend I’m doing an event, I’m launching my foundation so I’m doing an event down in DeLand. I’m doing a golf tournament, football clinic back home. So it was perfect timing for everything. So it’s just good to be back home, be back in Florida.”
The Eagles announced this afternoon that they have re-signed linebacker Tank Daniels to a 1-year deal and claimed running back Eldra Buckley off waivers from the San Diego Chargers. Daniels had been an exclusive rights free agent.
Daniels ranked fifth on the Eagles with 18 special teams tackles after being claimed off waivers from the New York Giants last August.
Buckley has spent the past two seasons on the Chargers practice squad.