Updated 9:49 p.m. ET
Another defensive player who was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent has decided instead to remain with the Jets. This afternoon outside linebacker Bryan Thomas became a free agent for the briefest of time after the 4 p.m. ET start to the free agency signing period before he and the Jets agreed in principle on a new contract.
Thomas' signing comes one day after the Jets announced the signing of NT Sione Pouha to a contract extension before he became an unrestricted FA.
With the signing of Thomas, BT thus remains the longest-tenured Jet on the roster. He came to the Jets out of Alabama–Birmingham as the 22nd overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, and so he is poised to begin his 11th season in the green and white.
"Bryan has meant a lot to this organization over his 10 seasons and we are excited that he will continue his career here," said general manager Mike Tannenbaum. "He's a versatile defender who is adept as a pass rusher and against the run. He understands the defense, allowing him to play a variety of roles for us."
Thomas' 10th season did not unfold the way he and the Jets wanted. Midway through the first quarter of the Sunday night game at Baltimore on Oct. 2, 2011, he sustained the first season-ending injury of his career, a torn left Achilles tendon.
Thomas got hurt the play after Ravens QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice teamed up for a 52-yard reception to the Jets 27. Flacco dropped back to try to find WR Anquan Boldin in the end zone. Thomas was rushing off the Jets' left end out of a three-point stance against Ravens RT Michael Oher.
Thomas was engaged with Oher but no other players were in the neighborhood when he planted his left leg to try to get around Oher to Flacco. He went down on the M&T Stadium turf, was examined on the field by the Jets' trainers and medical staff and then on the sideline.
He didn't return this season and was rarely seen in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room as he quietly went about rehabilitating his ankle. Some observers thought his Green & White career might have been ended by the injury, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum, head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets front office thought differently as both sides came together on the agreement, no terms of which were announced.
"I want to be able to play with one team my whole career. That's my goal," Thomas told Jenny Vrentas in today's Star-Ledger. "Hopefully I am back." He said his rehab is on schedule and he began running a few weeks ago and is about to begin cutting and doing football-specific drills.
Thomas has been a steady producer in his first decade as a Jet. He accumulated an unofficial total of 452 tackles. Among those tackles have been 32.5 sacks, and he led the defense with 8.5 sacks in 2006 and six sacks in '10. He also has 63.5 career tackles for loss/no gain, forced eight defensive fumbles and recovered six, and has 14 pass defenses, including his first interception in the 2010 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.