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Hayes snags opportunity


(Mar. 12)--Donald Hayes' motivation is exactly as Bobby Shaw's and Patrick Johnson's was a year ago. Hayes signed with the Jaguars for a one-year contract at minimum wage, in exchange for the opportunity to produce the kind of season that will catapult him into free agency next winter.

"Exactly," Hayes said when asked by this morning if that was the plan.

Hayes rushed into unrestricted free agency in the winter of 2002, following two sterling seasons in Carolina, where Hayes posted 66 and 52 catches. His size --6-4, 218 -- made him attractive to the Super Bowl-champion Patriots, who wanted to add size to their smallish receiving corps. The Patriots rewarded Hayes with a big free-agent contract, but success didn't follow. He slumped to 12 catches in just 12 games with one start. This winter, the Patriots released Hayes.

On Monday of this week, Hayes agreed to a one-year deal with the Jaguars, who paid Hayes a $125,000 signing bonus on a minimum-wage ($530,000) contract.

"I have the opportunity to play for a team like the Jags. They have a lot of young guys and, of course, playing on the other side from Jimmy Smith," Hayes said of the attraction in Jacksonville.

Hayes played for new Jaguars offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in Carolina in 2001, before Musgrave left the team after the fourth game.

"I liked him a lot. I liked what he was doing. When I found out he was with Jacksonville, that made it an easy decision for me," Hayes said.

Hayes came out of Wisconsin along with Tony Simmons in 1998. Hayes caught on slowly in Carolina, then blossomed with Steve Beuerlein at quarterback in 2000. It's important to note Hayes has consistently shown long-catch ability, with receptions of 35, 56, 43, 48 and 40 yards in his career. Three of those went for touchdowns.

In Jacksonville, Hayes expects to compete for the starting job opposite Smith (Z receiver), and to help take the pressure off Smith. He will be on hand when the Jaguars' offseason conditioning program begins on March 24.

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