Holt says he's craftier as older player

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have been searching for Jimmy Smith's replacement for years.

Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Jerry Porter all failed miserably.

Now, Torry Holt gets a turn.

Holt signed a three-year, incentive-laced contract with Jacksonville on Monday night, hoping to give the Jaguars the go-to receiver they've been looking for since Smith retired after the 2005 season.

And Holt believes he still can perform at a high level despite closing in on his 33rd birthday and being two years removed from knee surgery.

"You tell me what guy in his 11th season is who he was when he first came into the National Football League," Holt said Tuesday. "I bet you won't find too many of those guys. Am I the guy I was back then? Absolutely not. I feel like in a lot of ways I'm a lot better and I'm a lot craftier than I was back then.

"Back then I didn't have the knee surgery and I was younger. Those things allowed me to play at a fairly good clip. But I can still play. I feel like I'm anywhere between 80 and 90 percent of that player that I once was, given the right situation and given the opportunities to showcase that. I think I still have the ability to do that."

Holt, 11th on the NFL's career list with 869 receptions, believes he can play six more seasons. He caught 64 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns for St. Louis last season. The Rams released him last month, days before he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus.

Although Holt acknowledged that his best days probably were behind him, he made it clear that his drop-off last season had nothing to do with his right knee that plagued him in 2007. Holt had 93 receptions for 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns following surgery and said he felt even better heading into '08.

"You never heard me complaining about having any knee problems," he said. "You never saw me miss any games last year. I think it came down to the fact that we were not that good offensively. We fired our coach after the third or fourth game of the season. We had our quarterback, Marc Bulger, benched. There was no chemistry, no continuity within our offense, period, so everyone struggled, everyone suffered.

"I don't think my knee had anything to do with what people said was a decline in my numbers. It probably was that I played at such a high level for so long. To be able to catch 64 passes and 800-some yards last year with the disgruntled origination and a dysfunctional team and a not-so-healthy football team I thought was good."

The Jaguars are counting on Holt staying healthy.

Jacksonville parted ways with three of its top receivers this offseason, releasing Porter and Jones and declining to re-sign Williams.

Williams and Jones were first-round draft picks in 2004 and 2005, respectively, but neither lived up to lofty expectations. The team signed Porter to a six-year, $30 million contract last year in hopes of filling the void, but he caught just 11 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown, and was blamed for the team's chemistry issues.

The Jags expect much more production from Holt.

"We didn't just get a player with the ability to help us win, but somebody who can be a positive, veteran presence in the locker room," general manager Gene Smith said. "He's not in his prime years, but he definitely has a lot left and certainly can come in here and play at a winning level. He's bringing more than just talent, and that's what was very attractive about adding a guy like him to the locker room."

Holt plans to arrive in Jacksonville on Thursday and start working out with his new teammates and learning new plays. And the guy nicknamed "Big Game" also had big goals.

"My goal is always 90-plus catches, 1,300-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns," he said. "That's always been my goal, and those goals won't change. You have to set them pretty high to give yourself something to strive for and reach for.

"Now, will I reach those goals? Who knows. Do I have the potential to reach those goals? Absolutely. Will I be given those opportunities? I hope I will be given those opportunities in Jacksonville."