The Philadelphia Eagles’ ongoing quest to get a leg up on the competition led them sign to sign a new punter Monday.
Free-agent punter Donnie Jones became the 10th player to join the team in the last two weeks when he agreed to terms on a one-year contract. Upon landing him, the Eagles released punter Mat McBriar.
“I had a nice meeting with (Eagles) coach (Chip) Kelly and I’m excited to be a part of what they’re starting this year,” Jones said Monday in a phone interview. “I don’t know much about the area, but I know there’s a lot of history here and I’m thankful to be joining a winning organization.”
Jones follows linebacker Connor Barwin, wide receiver Arrelious Benn, tight end/fullback James Casey, safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, linebacker James Phillips, safety Kenny Phillips, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and cornerback Cary Williams as recent Eagles signings.
Like Barwin and Casey, Jones spent last season with the Houston Texans, where he averaged 47.2 yards per punt and posted a net average of 40.5 yards. McBriar, who recovered from a foot injury to beat out Chas Henry for the Eagles’ job last season, averaged 46.5 yards per punt in 2012 with a net average of 36.5 yards.
“Mat was nothing but a consummate professional for us in 2012,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Monday in a statement. “He battled back from a tough injury situation to punt very well last year. We just decided to go in a different direction with Donnie.
“Donnie Jones is a guy we have admired over the last several years. He has one of the strongest legs in the 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.”
Jones, a nine-year NFL veteran, ranks ninth on the NFL’s all-time list with a career average of 45.6 yards.
Prior to playing for the Texans, he made stops in Seattle (2004), Miami (2005-06) and St. Louis (2007-11). He averaged 50 yards per punt for the Rams in 2008, becoming one of just seven players to average at least 50 yards for an entire season.
Jones said Monday he was expecting to be back in Houston this season, but his plans changed when the Texans signed former Oakland standout Shane Lechler on Saturday.
“(The Texans) had told me they definitely wanted to bring me back, but things just didn’t work out,” Jones said. “It was disappointing because I did everything that was asked of me, but it’s in the past now and I’ve moved on.
“Philadelphia wanted me here and you always want to be somewhere where you’re wanted.”
Jones will be the Eagles’ fourth punter in as many years, following Sav Rocca, Henry and McBriar. However, the 32-year-old is hoping to punt well enough to earn a long-term deal for 2014 and beyond.
The Eagles have lacked stability at that position since Rocca’s four-year stint ended after the 2010 season.
“My hope is that I can stick around here for a while,” Jones said. “That would be awesome.”
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