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Jags add Grant to defense


The Jaguars have reached a contract agreement with safety Deon Grant, an unrestricted free agent who was a second-round draft choice by the Carolina Panthers in 2000.

Grant has been the Panthers' starting free safety since his second season and has played in 48 consecutive regular-season games. He spent his rookie year on injured reserve after suffering a hip injury in training camp.

In the Panthers' run to the NFC title last season, Grant was the team's fourth-leading tackler with 89 stops. He made three interceptions and was credited with a sack and a forced fumble. He has 11 career interceptions.

At 6-2, 210, Grant is considered an excellent pass-defender. Of course, Grant was Carolina's starting free safety when Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio was the Panthers' defensive coordinator in 2002.

Terms of Grant's contract were not disclosed, but he is clearly the Jaguars' most expensive acquisition of this free agency period. He is the only free agent the Jaguars have signed, to date, who was a full-time starter last season. Most free-agent rankings had him among the top prospects.

Grant's mix of youth and experience made him most attractive to the Jaguars. The former Tennessee star will celebrate only his 25th birthday this Sunday. He is young for his NFL experience and showed definite flashes last season of maturing into one of the league's better "centerfielders."

At Tennessee, Grant was the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year and led the nation with nine interceptions. He left Tennessee to enter the NFL draft following his junior season. Grant was a starter in 24 consecutive games at Tennessee and played in every game during his three seasons there.

Deke Cooper, who the Jaguars claimed off waivers from Carolina early last season, was the starter at free safety in 10 games for the Jaguars. Donovin Darius has been the team's starting strong safety for the last six years, and the Jaguars recently used their "franchise" tag on Darius for the second consecutive season.

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