The Eagles hoped to have upgraded their special teams on Monday, signing former Rams punter Donnie Jones and releasing punter Mat McBriar, who was wildly inconsistent last season.
The veteran Jones, who will be 33 in July, averaged 47.2 yards per punt last year in Houston with a net of 40.5, both Texans records. McBriar was last in the NFL with a 36.5-yard net.
Jones ranks fifth in NFL history in both gross (45.6) and net (39.0) punting averages. In 2008, while with the Rams, he became one of seven players in NFL history to average at least 50 yards per punt for a single season.
Originally a seventh-round pick of the Seahawks in 2004, Jones also spent two seasons with the Dolphins. He’s played in 135 career games and recorded 736 career punts, 226 of which were downed inside the 20-yard line.
“Donnie Jones is a guy that we have admired over the last several years,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in a statement. “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.”
While at Oregon, Chip Kelly was known to go for it on fourth down. His new punter doesn't seem to mind.
"I never really worry about how much I’m used," Jones said. "Whenever I’m called upon, my goal is to go out and execute whatever situation we’re in [during] the game, depending on what the score is, how much time is left. I’m sure those would all factor into what decisions [Kelly] would make in regards to whether to go for it on fourth down or to punt. All I can really worry about and control is to catch the ball, kick, and when I’m called upon to do the best job I can."
Jones becomes the Eagles' fourth different punter in the last four years, following Sav Rocca (2010), Chas Henry (2011) and McBriar (2012). For Jones, it's his third team in as many years.
"Of course it was disappointing," Jones said of lasting just one year in Houston. "You do everything that was asked of you and you play really well, and ultimately they move in a different direction, so of course it’s disappointing. For me, that’s in the past. I’ve moved on. My goal or plan is to come in here, play really well for this team and my hope is I can stick around for a while and have something like I had in St. Louis. To be around for the next 4-5 years would be awesome."