NFL: Chicago deals Jones to New York

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Friday, March 9, 2007

The Chicago Bears confirmed Tuesday that they had traded running back Thomas Jones along with one of their second round picks (which was 63rd overall) in the 2007 draft to the New York Jets. In exchange they will receive the Jet's second round pick, which is 37th overall in the upcoming NFL Draft and originally belonged to the Washington Redskins.

Jones rushed for 1,210 yards last season with the Bears and 301 yards in the playoffs including 112 yards on 15 carries in Super Bowl XLI against the Colts. Jones (who will be 29 next season) who originally signed with the Bears for a four year $10 million deal as a free agent prior to 2004. His contract was set to expire after 2007. After his 1,335 yard 2005 season (which included nine touchdowns) Jones expressed his unhappiness with his contract by boycotting the Bears' offseason voluntary workouts. Shortly after the Super Bowl, Jones expressed his desire for a change to Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. At a scouting combine two weeks ago he hinted a trade might be in the works, saying of Jones "He’s expressed some things to me personally. We’ll work on some things. I told him I would listen, and I did." Had Jones stayed with the Bears in 2007 he would have made $2.75 million. The contract with the Jets (arranged by his agent Drew Rosenhaus) is for four years and is worth $20 million with a $12 million guaranteed signing bonus. Having passed his physical for the Jets, Jones is set to receive $13.1 million in the deal's first two years.

Reflecting on the trade Jones said "It wasn't really a situation where I wanted to be traded. It was a situation where I wanted to have an opportunity to do what I am capable of doing and that's going somewhere and providing leadership like I did in Chicago." He looked forward to playing with the Jets "I had a great time in Chicago, and it was a great experience playing there and making it to the Super Bowl last year with those guys. But I'm very, very excited to be here in 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 something that was special." Jones also addressed concerns about his age, saying "I'll be 29 years old this year, but I haven't had a lot of carries for a 29-year-old back and I'm a workout warrior. I love working out, I love taking care of my body and I'm very in tune with my body and how I feel. The way I feel right now, I could play for a long, long time."

Last season the Jets ranked 30th in rushing in the NFL, and the trade gives the Jets the starting running back they have lacked since Curtis Martin's knee injury over a year ago (Martin did not play last season and is expected to retire). Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum was happy about the trade, stating “We did a lot of research on Thomas as a person, and we think he's a good fit on and off the field. He's a tough, outdoor, northeast runner, and he provides leadership.” Jones will be sharing running duties with Leon Washington, and Cedric Houston (the Jets released their two other running backs Derrick Blaylock and Kevan Barlow). Last year Houston totaled up 374 rushing yards while Washington led the team with 650.

Jones spoke of his admiration of his new teammate, saying "Leon Washington is a great back. I watched him last year, and he made some great plays for the Jets, helped them get to the playoffs. I have a lot of respect for him and all the other running backs out there. I'm one of the guys on the team that just wants to provide leadership and make plays and help us win." When asked if he expected to get most of the rushing duty Jones said "The best players play, and that's a great situation to be in. It gives you an opportunity to go out there and compete. Competition makes everybody better." The addition of Jones will give the Jets the option of using Washington and Houston as situational runners, which many believe will be increase their effectiveness. The Jets' general manager Tannenbaum stressed that the coaching staff would determine such questions, but said of Brown "I think he's a complete back, in terms of, he can be on the field for all three downs. How he's used and in what role will ultimately be determined by [Head Coach] Eric [Mangini] and Coach Schottenheimer, but he's a guy who can come in here and add to the productivity of the team."

In place of Jones, the Bears are expected to start Cedric Benson. Benson was the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2005 draft and is playing for the Bears under a $35 million contract. Benson rushed for 647 yards last season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Benson was injured in the Super Bowl after 2 carries for a 1 yard loss. Both Jones and Benson served the Bears as tailbacks, and (baring injury) were substituted for one another every couple of series. Bears general manager Angelo said of Benson "It's his time. It's that simple. It's his time. We feel strongly that he is ready." Angelo dismissed questions surrounding Benson's hardiness (a sprained knee in 2005 kept him out of six games, and last season he suffered a shoulder injury at training camp and a sprained knee in the Super Bowl). Angelo pointed out "He’s been hurt, [but] he never was hurt in college. He had a lot of carries and four 1,000-yard seasons."

While many in Chicago view Jones' relationship with his teammates, and Benson in particular as icy, he had only complimentary things to say when discussing the trade and its effects. He told reporters "Cedric Benson has a lot of talent. He's a talented guy. When you move into the featured role, there are a lot more responsibilities. Coach Tim Spencer is a great running backs coach and I had a great relationship with him, not only as a coach but as a friend. He has so much advice for me to make me a better football player and I'm sure he'll pass that same advice to Cedric."

The Bears have declared their intent to have special-teams standout Adrian Peterson serve as a complementary player to Benson. While Peterson only had 10 carries last season, in 2005 he led the Bears with 76 carries at an average of 5.1 yards. General manager Angelo stated “We feel good about Cedric and Adrian. We still feel we have two quality running backs. That was a part of why we did what we did. We'll continue to look for a running back because we want to carry three running backs on the roster.”

The Bears top draft positions are now 31st overall in the first round, and their new acquisition of 37th overall in the second round. The Jets top draft positions are both in the second round, the 59th overall and the newly acquired 63rd overall.

The Jets also announced they signed 13-year veteran Bobby Hamilton to defensive back and Kenyon Coleman (six year veteran from Dallas) to defensive end. The Bears announced the 49ers’ offensive assistant Pep Hamilton would succeed Wade Wilson (who went to Dallas) as quarterback coach, and Charles London (formerly Duke’s assistant running back coach) would take over Mike Bajakian’s offensive quality-control coach position since he left to become offensive coordinator at Central Michigan.