Felix Jones once played like a first-round pick. The Eagles know it all too well.
Jones, as a running back for the Cowboys, rushed for 148 yards on 16 carries in a first-round playoff blowout of the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles on Jan. 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. One of his runs went 73 yards for a touchdown.
Dallas won 34-14, the franchise’s first -- and last -- playoff win since the 1996 season. McNabb never played again for the Eagles. Jones, chosen 22nd overall in 2008, had played the best game of his career.
All this time later, it’s still the best game of his career, by far.
“Things just didn’t go right as far as the injuries and things, but that’s how the game is,” Jones said Tuesday after signing a one-year free-agent deal with the Eagles. “Just got to keep pushing on, keep moving.”
According to a league source, the deal is a one-year minimum-salary-benefit contract, a provision written into the CBA that went into effect before the 2011 season. As a sixth-year veteran, Jones will be paid a base salary of $715,000 -- the NFL 2013 minimum for players in their fifth through seventh season -- but his cap hit will be equal only to the base salary of a second-year player, which this year is $555,000. The difference, $160,000, is cap savings.
Jones got a small bonus of $65,000, which is the maximum allowed for players signing under the minimum salary benefit. That gives him a 2013 cap figure of $620,000 with only a $65,000 cap hit if he's released.
Jones found out the hard way this offseason about the perils of being an underachieving first-round running back in a pass-first league. The cash-strapped Cowboys couldn’t -- or chose not to -- retain him, and Jones drew little interest around the league.
But the Eagles liked him coming out of Arkansas five years ago and were one of the very few teams that kicked his tires this offseason. After visiting with the Eagles and Patriots last week, Jones said he felt like he fit best here.
“Once I visited the Eagles and I got to know their coaches and figured out their system and how things would be going, I kinda liked it,” he said. “I felt like it fit me.”
Jones isn’t harboring any visions of finally blossoming into a franchise running back. He knows the offensive backfield here is crowded and talented. Though he just turned 26, he’s still the oldest of the six running backs on the roster.
The Eagles already have a premier halfback in LeSean McCoy, a promising backup in Bryce Brown and some raw talent among the reserves.
“There are good backs here and I’m definitely competing for a spot,” Jones said. “It’s going to be fun learning from those guys and pick up what they’ve done and help them out. That’s going to help my game as well. I always play with a couple backs anyway, ever since college. It’s always a thrill to have a couple of people at your position because they can push you.”
Jones practiced with his new teammates Tuesday, his first day on the job. He even took some kickoff returns, a phase that he excelled in earlier in his career with Dallas.
“It was fun. It's been awhile since I did a team activity,” he said. “I definitely enjoyed running around out there with those guys. Once I learn the plays, I'll be more involved. But I was watching from afar today and it was exciting to see what was going on."
Jones, who once shared snaps in the backfield with Darren McFadden in college, had very few memorable moments with the Cowboys outside of that playoff game against the Eagles. He has just four career 100-yard efforts in 64 games and just 23 starts. Never has he rushed for more than three touchdowns in a season.
Thanks in part to a laundry list of injuries, Jones has played 16 games just twice in his career and had always been part of a rushing committee in Dallas, unable to seize hold of the top ball carrier label.
“Hey, man, things don’t happen the way you plan them,” he said. “I’m just glad to be here and I’m excited about the opportunity. I can’t wait to get things going.”
Reuben Frank contributed to this report.