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'Franchise' tag on Darius

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The Jaguars have informed Donovin Darius of their intention to designate the veteran safety a "franchise" player for the second consecutive year. Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to name "franchise" and "transition" players.

Darius would be paid at last year's average of the top five salaries at his position in the league, which means Darius would earn $4.1 million this season. The "franchise" tag provides only for salary money, which means Darius would be a $4.1 million hit on the Jaguars' salary cap in 2004.

If the Jaguars and Darius don't reach a contract agreement before March 3, he would become an unrestricted free agent, and any team signing Darius to a contract would owe the Jaguars two first-round picks as compensation. That was the situation a year ago, but Darius was not signed to a contract by another team and played for the Jaguars at the '03 "franchise" rate of $3 million.

"He's a guy who sets a tone for the defense and is a valuable contributor," Jaguars salary cap manager Paul Vance said of the team's position in re-tagging Darius. "We made him a contract offer and we've been talking to him on and off over the last 18 months, and we haven't been able to reach an agreement on a long-term deal."

Darius' agent, Tom Condon, was informed last week of the Jaguars' intentions. The process of officially informing Darius began today.

According to "franchise" tag rules:

The Jaguars may sign Darius to a long-term contract between Feb. 25 and March 17 and not lose use of the tag. After March 17, signing Darius to a new contract would result in the Jaguars losing use of the "franchise" tag for the duration of Darius' new contract. Some teams have executed a procedural way around that rule, in which the team signs the player to a one-year contract, then signs him to a long-term contract on July 15 or after, which would allow the team to reclaim the "franchise" tag.

Darius is not required to sign the tender offer, but once he does his salary is guaranteed. The Jaguars may remove the "franchise" tag at any time before he signs the tender, which would allow another team to sign Darius without having to compensate the Jaguars. "Franchise" players may not be traded until they sign the tender offer.

As the first player in Jaguars history to have played under the "franchise" tag, Darius was the team's third-leading tackler in 2003. He had one interception, nine passes-defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Darius was a first-round draft choice in 1998.

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