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Rebuilding Jaguars sign OT Thomas to fill need, bring veteran leadership

After bungling free agency last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars vowed to revamp their aging roster through the draft.

They made an exception for Tra Thomas.

Age: 34

Height: 6-7  Weight: 335

College: Florida State

Experience: 12th season

The three-time Pro Bowl left tackle signed a three-year contract with the Jaguars on Monday, filling the team's most glaring need and moving him considerably closer to home.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Thomas, who allowed just two sacks in 658 pass attempts last season, is expected to step into a starting role in place of free agent Khalif Barnes and provide leadership on a Jacksonville team that finished 5-11 last season and then parted ways with three captains.

"Hopefully, I'm one of the key positions that's going to come in and help turn this team around," Thomas said.

The 6-foot-7, 335-pound lineman was a mainstay in Philadelphia the last 11 years. Thomas, who was the 11th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, started 165 games and has missed just 10 contests during his career.

"On behalf of the entire Eagles organization, I want to thank Tra Thomas for a fantastic 11-year run in Philadelphia," Eagles president Joe Banner said in a statement released by the team. "It's not often that offensive linemen get much praise and attention for their hard work, leadership and Pro Bowl play. But Tra deserves every ounce of it, and I know that our fans feel equally appreciative for everything he has done for this organization and the Philadelphia community. We will miss him and wish him all the best as he continues his career with the Jaguars."

The Eagles had hoped to re-sign Thomas, but he chose the Jaguars partly because they were closer to home in nearby DeLand.

"I have several years left in the tank," said Thomas, 34. "I take good care of myself. I'm always in the weight room training. ... I put in a goal to play 20 years, so I want to come in and play as long as I possibly can. I feel like if I continue to take care of myself, it can definitely happen."

The Jaguars parted ways with running back Fred Taylor, defensive end Paul Spicer and linebacker Mike Peterson, all team captains, and released wide receiver Jerry Porter and cornerback Drayton Florence. Jacksonville gave Porter and Florence more than $20 million guaranteed last year, but both players struggled on the field and caused problems in the locker room.

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver and general manager Gene Smith vowed not to make the same mistakes this time around, especially during an economic downturn.

"Tra has been a part of a lot of winning in Philadelphia, he's been durable, he's a three-time Pro Bowl player, and he is a solid, experienced veteran and a good presence in the locker room," Smith said. "We have talked about character being important, and this is in line with that philosophy.

"He's the right kind of guy, and we signed him to a contract that is a good, fair deal for us and for him. This is a good value, and we feel a logical move for both of us."

The move also should give Jacksonville more flexibility heading into next month's draft. The Jaguars had been almost certain to select a left tackle with the No. 8 pick.

Smith didn't rule out drafting a tackle and having Thomas serve as a backup, but he said the plan was for Thomas to be the starter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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