Tra Thomas is not approaching his late-career move to Jacksonville as stop-gap, which is how most analysts are regarding the Jaguars' interest in Thomas.
"I have several years left in my tank," Thomas told reporters on Monday, after signing a multi-year contract to ostensibly become the Jaguars' new starting left tackle.
"That's the plan," Thomas said.
Consensus of opinion is that Thomas will be the Jaguars' starter at left tackle until a younger player is ready to move him out. At 34, Thomas is an 11-year veteran, all of those years spent with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I want to play here as long as I possibly can. I want to finish my football career here," Thomas said.
The 11th overall pick of the 1998 draft, Thomas came out of Florida State as a 350-pound "earthmover." He has a considerably different body type and playing style these days. At 6-7, 317, Thomas is a long and lean tackle who perfected his pass-blocking skills in the Eagles' pass-happy offense.
"I felt last year was one of my better years being an Eagle. I only gave up two sacks in the regular season. Run-blocking has always been a challenge for me. Andy (Heck) can help me with that," Thomas said, referring to the Jaguars offensive line coach. "I'm up to the challenge."
"He's an experienced veteran. He started all 19 games last year. He'll bring positive veteran presence. They're bringing winning habits," Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said of Thomas and safety Sean Considine, another former Eagles player the Jaguars signed in this free agency period.
"This is a guy who sees himself playing five more years and being an offensive line coach one day. This guy's been durable. He's a Florida State guy and from DeLand, Fla. This one made too much sense," Smith added.
Thomas plays a position at which older players have been able to hang on. Bruce Matthews played when he was 40; Jackie Slater was 41.
"We got value in a player," Smith said, referring to a contract that is low in guaranteed money and high in incentives.
The Jaguars can now go into the draft with the security of knowing it doesn't have to reach for a tackle.
"The draft philosophy hasn't changed. We're trying to strengthen our offensive line as a group. We're going to stay with our draft board," Smith said.
"This whole signing worked out big for me. It's good to be back home; good to be back in Florida," Thomas said. "Once I visited here, I knew this was a perfect fit for me."