Defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson were major factors in defensive end Reggie Hayward's decision to sign with the Jaguars. Hayward, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Jaguars on Wednesday, the opening day of free agency, expects his sacks total to climb as a result of attention Stroud and Henderson will receive from opponents' blocking schemes.
"With Marcus and John acquiring so much attention, it creates a lot of one-on-one's," said Hayward, who got the Jaguars' attention after having recorded 19 sacks in the last two seasons.
The Jaguars considered Hayward to be the top prospect within a defensive end crop that was weakened by the "franchising" of John Abraham and Darren Howard. With Hayward heading into the prime years of his career, the Jaguars paid Hayward according to what the team believes he will accomplish. And with Stroud and Henderson helping to create pass-rush room for Hayward, the Jaguars believe they're going to get a lot of bang for their buck.
"He fills a need at defensive end for us," coach Jack Del Rio told reporters at a Thursday morning press conference at Alltel Stadium. "He's an ascending player, a young player. We believe his best football is ahead of him. We believe Reggie will help take our defense to another level."
Hayward received a $10 million bonus to sign with the Jaguars, which makes him one of the team's elite players. The Jaguars, however, structured the bonus money in such a way that 70 percent of its amortization will be expired by the end of the 2005 season. Seven million dollars of the $10 million was paid as roster bonus, requiring all of that money to be charged to the team's '05 salary cap. The remaining $3 million will be paid as an option bonus in March of '06. Hayward's total cap hit this season is $7.55 million, which includes a $550,000 salary.
The size of the bonus money was clearly the deal-maker, but indications are that Hayward targeted the Jaguars as much as the Jaguars targeted him.
"Jack (Del Rio) and my agent wanted to get this done early. This is the type of atmosphere I wanted to get into. Denver had success and I want to have success here," Hayward told reporters on Thursday.
Kansas City, Miami, Seattle and Arizona were other teams who had expressed interest in Hayward, who became a full-time starter for the Broncos last season. He came to the Broncos in the third round of the 2001 draft and was a part-time player through his first three seasons.
"Last year was a breakout season for me. I got on the radar with all of the sacks," said Hayward, who got seven of his 10.5 sacks against AFC South teams. That's a statistic that interested the Jaguars.
"If 19 sacks over the last two years is just the tip of the iceberg, then that's good for Jacksonville," Del Rio said.
Del Rio announced the team has also signed quarterback Nate Hybl, who had played for new offensive coordinator Carl Smith in Cleveland. "Carl thinks he has a chance to develop," Del Rio said of Hybl.
The Jaguars head coach was asked to comment on a few other issues:
• Fred Taylor's recovery from knee surgery: "From what I understand, he's doing well," Del Rio said.
• Donovin Darius' discontent at being "franchised" for the third consecutive year: "I don't take it personal. I understand he might be feeling some frustration. In the end, I believe Donovin will be here and be a good football player. When he signed his contract he assured that."
• Possible trade interest for quarterback David Garrard: "We'll continue to talk about possible scenarios involving David. He's a valuable backup. It depends on what 'something' is," Del Rio said, obviously referring to what teams would be willing to give the Jaguars in a trade. "For us, he represents tremendous value."