If any Eagle can truly appreciate Super Bowl run, it’s punter Donnie Jones

If any Eagle can truly appreciate Super Bowl run, it’s punter Donnie Jones

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Only 15 current NFL players have been at this longer than Donnie Jones, who was a rookie in 2004 with the Seahawks back in the era of Shaun Alexander, Trent Dilfer and, yes, Jerry Rice.

And what did he have to show for his first 13 years in the NFL? More than 1,000 punts, about 27 miles of punt yardage and one lonely playoff win over Marvin Lewis and the Bengals back in 2012 with the Texans.

If anybody can really appreciate this Super Bowl run, it's the 37-year-old Jones, the 12th-oldest player in the NFL and soon to be the fourth-oldest punter in Super Bowl history.

"I've been in this league a long time and in my 14th year to have an opportunity to play for a world championship, it means everything," Jones said.

"I look back at the sacrifices I've made, different cities I've lived in, moving my wife and kids around, countless hours of preparation and practice, and finally it's all paying off. I couldn't be happier about the opportunity."

This is only the fourth time in Jones' 14 seasons he's even made the playoffs. The Seahawks lost a wild-card game to the Rams his rookie year, the Texans beat the Bengals in 2012 before losing to Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro, and in 2013 he was on the Eagles team that lost to the Saints at the Linc.

"The closest I've ever been to a Super Bowl was 2012," Jones said. "We were 11-1, and we only needed to win two out of our last four to get a bye and home-field (advantage), but we only won one. So we went up to New England (in the conference semifinals), and they beat us."

Jones has spent most of his career punting very well for really bad football teams.

He's by far the best punter in Eagles history, with a net average of 40.5 yards in his five seasons and a gross average of 45.4 — both easily franchise records. 

He's played in 208 consecutive games, the third-longest current streak in the NFL. His 45.4 career average is 14th-highest in NFL history.

His credentials are impeccable. And now, finally, he can do it on the greatest stage in sports.

"I spent a lot of years with some bad football teams and you just never know," he said. "You definitely wonder if you'll ever get here. 

"Jake Elliott, he's a rookie, he's going to a Super Bowl his first year. I told Jake it doesn't happen like that for a lot of guys and I'm an example of that. He's very fortunate to be a part of this group. 

"This is a very special group. Everything we've dealt with all year, the injuries we've had, injuries to key players, guys stepping in and filling those roles, it's a true team and that's what it takes to win. To have all these guys come together and play as one makes this year really special for me."

Jones and the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

He went into this year with an 85-123 career record, so when he talks about how he doubted he'd ever get here, it's understandable.

"I think throughout the years you always have moments, especially when things aren't going well, where you just want to be done," he said.

"You just want to quit. 'I just can't do this anymore.' Whether it's hard on your family or it's the stresses of performance. There've been times where I'm like, 'Dang, I don't know if I can keep doing this.' 

"But I know my body still feels good and I still feel like I can play and I'm glad I did and now we're in this great situation that we've earned, and it makes it all worthwhile."

When he steps on the field for the first time Sunday night either to punt or hold for Elliott, Jones will become the oldest Eagle ever to play in a Super Bowl.

That honor currently belongs to guard Woody Peoples, who was 37 when the Eagles lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV in New Orleans after the 1980 season.

"You're in the Super Bowl playing in a world championship, but you still have to focus on what you do in every other game," Jones said.

"See the ball, catch it, place it, place the laces, swing. Everything's the same. It's the situation outside that's changed. 

"It's like that scene in Hoosiers, where he measures the basket. There's a lot on the line, sure. But it's all the same stuff you've done all your life. You can't look at it like it's any bigger than it is."

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

AP Images

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

Several hours after an NJ.com report surfaced that the Eagles were unlikely to re-sign Trey Burton, the tight end denied it on Twitter.

Replying to a tweet about the report from former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, Burton said he hasn't spoken to anyone.

NJ.com's Matt Lombardo reported Friday that the Eagles made Burton an offer that the soon-to-be-free-agent "didn't consider serious."

"We are fully expecting Trey to sign elsewhere," the source said.

It wouldn't be surprising whatsoever if Burton leaves in free agency. A team will likely pay him starter's money and offer him a chance to start, which he doesn't have here with Zach Ertz firmly entrenched.

The Eagles are over the projected salary cap, and while they could create space in numerous ways, they also have to worry about re-signing key linebacker Nigel Bradham.

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

The Eagles are coming off a thrilling season but there's a lot of work to be done. 

The NFL's new league year begins on March 14 and the Eagles must be under the salary cap by then. The problem is that based on projections, the Eagles are set to be more than $9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap. So it's time for some maneuvering. 

The good news is that Howie Roseman's specialty has always been finding unique ways to get the Eagles out of cap trouble. There are ways for him to do it again.

Cut Torrey Smith 
Probably the easiest one. Smith was a great teammate and a solid addition to the Eagles' locker room, and he really stepped up his game in the playoffs, but it's probably not enough to bring him back. He just wasn't good enough last season, and cutting him would save the Eagles $5 million in cap room with no dead money. The Birds still have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, while Mack Hollins is entering Year 2. 

Cut Brent Celek
This one will hurt, but Celek can take away the sting if he decides to walk away as a champion. He's set to have a cap number of $5 million. That's just way too much for what Celek provides these days. By cutting him, the Eagles would save $4 million in cap space. So just between Smith and Celek, the Eagles will almost get back to zero ... but there's other work to do. They'll still need money to sign free agents and draft picks. 

Extend Brandon Graham 
Graham is entering the final year of his contract with a cap number of $8 million. He wants a new contract and deserves one. Good news: An extension would work for both sides. Graham would get more money long term and the Eagles could get his cap number down this season. 

Rework/cut Vinny Curry
Curry is coming off of probably his best season in the NFL but will have an $11 million cap number. That's tough to swallow, especially with Derek Barnett waiting for his chance to start. It seems likely the Eagles will ask Curry to take a pay cut or rework his deal. If not, cutting him would leave $6 million in dead money but would also save $5 million in cap room. 

Trade Mychal Kendricks
If you remember, Kendricks actually wanted a trade last offseason. Good thing that didn't happen. Kendricks ended up being a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017. Depending on what happens with Nigel Bradham in free agency and with Jordan Hicks' Achilles recovery, trading Kendricks might again be an option. A trade would save $4.4 million in cap space. 

Trade Nick Foles 
This is such a tough one — we explore it more here. But basically, Foles is a pretty amazing insurance policy until we know when Carson Wentz is going to be ready. If the Eagles do trade Foles, it would save them $5.2 million that they could certainly use. The problem is that by the time they know Wentz's status, free agency will be long gone and that cap space won't help this year. But it could help in 2019.