In an effort to rebound from two losing seasons in which they combined for just 11 victories, the Chicago Bears are off and running.
While there remain some details to be finalized, the Bears have reached an agreement in principle with unrestricted free agent tailback Thomas Jones, an acquisition that could eventually result in the end of Anthony Thomas' three-year tenure with the club.
Barring any hangups, Jones will sign a four-year contract worth approximately $10 million and with a signing bonus of about $3.5 million. Sources close to Jones confirmed early Wednesday morning he was en route to Chicago to meet with Bears officials and examine the contract.
After three disappointing seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, who had selected him as the seventh overall player in the 2000 draft, Jones was traded to Tampa Bay last spring and resurrected his career with the Bucs. He rushed for 627 yards and three touchdowns on 137 carries, taking over as the Tampa Bay starter late in the season, and positioned himself as one of the top free agent running backs in a lean market.
The ardor with which Bears general manager Jerry Angelo regarded Jones was one of the NFL's worst-kept secrets. Despite Thomas' two 1,000-yard performances in three seasons, Angelo was not believed to be a big fan of the NFL's 2001 rookie of the year. It is also felt that Jones, 25, might be a better fit for the offense that will be installed by the team's new coordinator, Terry Shea.
Jones was a classic first-round bust in Arizona, where he lost the starting tailback job in three consecutive seasons before the Cardinals finally gave up on him. But he played well as Tampa Bay's No. 2 back and then, after replacing Michael Pittman as the starter, really hit his stride.
In four NFL seasons, he has carried 499 times for 1,891 yards and 12 touchdowns, and also has 97 receptions for 652 yards and no scores.
The Bears have also reached an agreement with much-traveled unrestricted free agent quarterback Jonathan Quinn, who spent the last two seasons in Kansas City, where he appeared in just one game. A six-year veteran, Quinn is familiar with Shea's offense and could challenge for the primary backup job.
Quinn, 29, has appeared in 12 games and started three during a six-year career, and has completed 66 of 125 passes for 748 yards. He has three touchdown passes and four interceptions. Contract details for Quinn were not yet available.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.