Once upon a time in a football galaxy far, far away, Sean Jones was an all-everything quarterback who in a single season passed for 31 touchdowns and ran for another 11 scores and generally did anything he wanted as a high school senior with the football in his hands. But he played defense, too, and when it was time to make the leap to the college game, Jones wanted to be the hitter, not the hittee.
Fast forward to now. Jones has played five years in the NFL and, just like that, is in the same position he was so many years ago. He has to prove himself all over again. Jones ended his one-week stint in free agency and agreed to terms with the Eagles on a one-year contract. Jones made plays in the four seasons he was on the field with the Browns after missing his rookie campaign because of a knee injuries. Jones' 14 interceptions in the last three seasons ranked third-highest in the NFL, good stuff for a safety who is known as an outstanding blitzer and a playmaker around the line of scrimmage.
"Its a new start and it is exciting for me," said Jones. "I love this scheme and the opportunity. Jim Johnson likes pressure, which is what I'm all about. I feel great and I'm ready to go."
Jones has a one-year contract, not exactly the kind of security that maybe he was looking for when free agency started. With all of the big deals and heavy contracts out there, Jones instead is here on what he sees as a show-me deal.
"I'm going to prove to the Philadelphia Eagles what I can do," said Jones.
Sounds good here. Still unknown is where Jones will eventually play, but it is likely the Eagles will look at a lot of different scenarios prior to the start of the season. Jones offers the experience of a young veteran who is, as he says, "interchangable" and who has played both strong safety and free safety. Quintin Mikell is on the verge of being a Pro Bowl player at strong safety, but he also has some starting experience at free safety, too. Those two, along with Quintin Demps, provide depth and versatility Jim Johnson likes at the safety spots. There is another player on the roster, Byron Parker, who starred in the CFL, but he has to show he can play at this level. He will get a look in the spring and summer.
The Eagles will likely add a safety or two in April's draft so that they have a complete and competitive situation in training camp at both safety spots. Who starts? Mikell will be in there at either the strong safety spot or the free safety position. Demps is someone the Eagles really like. Jones obviously is a candidate.
"It's a competition, there's no question," said General Manager Tom Heckert. "Obviously, we like Quintin (Demps) and we'll see. Now, we have a guy who has started a lot of football games, so it's a good situation to be in."
Jones is a big, 220-pounder whom the Eagles are going to move around and see where they can put him on the field to make plays. That's the plan, always subject to change.
"He's a big kid. He's a very good run player. He obviously has some good ball skills," said Heckert. "He caught, what, 14 interceptions? I think he's a pretty solid all-around guy.
"Both of our guys are brought up the same way. It's really whoever Jim wants to bring down in the box. It's not really a true strong safety/free safety scheme with Jim. We do have a strong safety and free safety, but we use them the same way. We bring Quintin (Mikell) down into the box. We brought Brian (Dawkins) down into the box. I think we can just kind of maneuver who we want down there."
Dawkins is in Denver now, and the Eagles have to move on with a new look at safety. Jones adds to a group that is led by Mikell, a group that certailny has talent. How are they gonig to be used? In a lot of ways, none that are etched in stone right now. The more options Johnson has, the more fun he will have moving the pieces around the defense.
Bringing Jones is means the Eagles have whittled down their need list a bit more prior to the draft. Will they make another move in free agency? We'll see about that. It has been a pretty busy first week -- two signings and two trades, plus some emotional departures -- and the market has certainly cooled and most definitely has thinned out.
The best news is that the defense has shored up its safety positions, with more work ahead. The rest of the defense looks really, really solid. Addnig Jones, who has all the incentive in the world to get back on the track he was on just a couple of years ago, one that earned him recognition as a top, young safety in this league, was a good move.
"I'm healthy, the knee is fine (a knee injury early last year caused Jones to miss four games) and I'm excited to get it going," he said. "This is the organization I want to be with, and I'm looking forward to convincing the Eagles to keep me around for a long, long time."