If you have watched Thomas Jones play football, then you know the veteran back runs with purpose and he plays with great emotion. Jones was ecstatic Tuesday after the Jets finalized a trade with the Bears, bringing him to New York.
"It's a great city. We had a chance to play the Jets this year, and the energy and the excitement that we felt up here at the Meadowlands and just being in New York in general was special," Jones said of a November 19th encounter. "I am excited about the opportunity. They have a great team; they have a lot of great players on this team. I am just excited about being here."
In addition to Jones, the Jets picked up the 63rd overall selection in the 2007 Draft from Chicago in exchange for the 37th overall selection in the '07 Draft. Last season, Jones rushed for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns for the NFC Champions while averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
"Anytime you are a skilled player, you love to have the ball in your hands and you love to have the opportunity to make plays and help the team win," he said. "Obviously, you want to get as many opportunities as possible. But that will be proven in practice."
The 28-year-old Jones, who will bring another dimension to the offensive backfield, also signed a contract extension with the Jets on Tuesday. Last season, the team took a committee approach at running back and rookie Leon Washington paced the Jets' backs with 650 rush yards. In the weeks ahead, it is expected Curtis Martin will officially announce his retirement.
"Curtis Martin is one of the best backs of all-time in the NFL," Jones said. "I have followed him for a long time, but – like I said – I am just excited about being here in New York and about having the opportunity to help this team win. They have an exciting team. They have a lot of great players like I said before. I am just one of the guys here on the team who is going to come in and just try to help this program get to the level that they are trying to get to."
Jones was originally selected by Arizona in the first round of the 2000 draft, but his best statistical seasons came with the Bears from 2004-'06.
"In the first four years of his career, his playing time was less than 40 percent which is unusual for somebody who was the seventh pick overall," said Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum of Jones. "As his career has evolved, he has become more and more productive including 2,500 yards over the last two years and 15 touchdowns. He has had over 50 receptions combined the last two years.
"I think he is a complete back in terms that he can be used on the field on all three downs," he added. "How he is used and what role will ultimately determine by Eric (Mangini) and Coach Schottenheimer, but I think he is a guy who can come in here and I think add to the productivity of the team."
The Jets got a prized talent without mortgaging their future. Tannenbaum still has the flexibility he covets when the draft rolls around in April.
"We still have four picks on the first day and we have Thomas here now, who has been a productive player in this league," he said. "Eric and I see him as a guy who is going to help us with competition and depth. He has been productive especially the last two years. We are glad he is a Jet."
Tannenbaum credited his staff for their continued efforts in talent evaluation. Jones is a complete football player who was also considered a great locker room presence with the Bears.
"It was a comprehensive overview of what pro free agency looked like this year, what pro free agency looked like next year, this year's draft, other potential cap casualties and other trades," said Tannenbaum of the process. "We did a lot of research on Thomas as a person, which you guys know is very important to Eric and me. We think he is a good fit on and off the field. He is a tough runner. He has good leadership. We did a lot of research on him."
Jones has seven years of professional experience and he is just now entering the prime of his career. The dual threat averaged 1, 272 rush yards and 31 receptions his final two seasons in Chicago. He will turn 29 on August 19th.
"Over the last 10 years, there have been 14 players 30-years or older who have rushed for 1,000 yards," Tannenbaum said. "And that's not to say we expect him to rush for 1,000 yards or one-yard. That is just to illustrate the point that even at 30-years-old or older, they can still be productive."
Jones, the older brother of Cowboys running back Julius Jones, should fit in well with this rising organization. Tannenbaum could have been describing Thomas Jones' running style when he talked about the Green & White's approach.
"If and when good opportunities present themselves, we'll be ready to go," he said.