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Bengals reel in Graham


The kicker the Jaguars hoped they had landed Thursday got away today. Shayne Graham was reeled back in by the Cincinnati Bengals, who matched the contract offer the Jaguars had made to Graham.

Meanwhile, tight end Todd Yoder became the Jaguars' first acquisition of the free agency period, when Yoder signed a three-year deal with the team on Friday. Two other unrestricted free agents, linebacker Tommy Hendricks and offensive lineman Mike Compton, visited Alltel Stadium on Friday.

Graham was a restricted free agent who had been assigned the low tender offer by the Bengals. That means Graham would've required no draft compensation to the Bengals, because Graham entered the league as an undrafted free agent. The Bengals had seven days to match the offer. Apparently, the decision to match was not difficult.

The addition of Yoder and the visits by Hendricks and Compton represent a conservative start to the free-agent period by the Jaguars, who are practicing restraint at a time when much of the NFL is burning up salary cap space at a record pace. Of course, the Jaguars' aggressiveness in free agency in the past resulted in salary cap problems that have been the major cause for four consecutive losing seasons.

Yoder, an unrestricted free agent from Tampa Bay, is considered an accomplished blocker and special teams player. He played in all 16 games with one start last season, when he caught seven passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-4, 250-pounder also had nine special teams tackles. An undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt in 2000, Yoder is 25 years old.

Hendricks, 6-2, 235, completed his fourth season in the NFL last year. He will be 26 next October and would give the Jaguars depth and insurance at linebacker, where the team is in danger of losing starter Danny Clark in free agency. Hendricks made his mark with the Miami Dolphins as a dependable reserve linebacker and special teams standout. The Jaguars' interest in him is for the player he might become.

Compton, 6-6, 310, would be in his 12th NFL season next fall, after spending the last three seasons with the New England Patriots as a guard/center. He will be 34 next September, has played every position on the offensive line and would help the Jaguars replace Jamar Nesbit and Leander Jordan, free-agent offensive linemen the Jaguars lost to the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers respectively. Compton has been an "ironman" throughout his career, until last season, when he suffered a foot injury and was put on injured reserve on Sept. 22.

In other Jaguars-related free agency news, defensive end Tony Brackens visited the New Orleans Saints yesterday. Brackens, of course, was cut by the Jaguars this past Tuesday.

Cornerback Fernando Bryant signed with the Detroit Lions Friday morning.

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