The Jaguars put the "franchise" designation on Donovin Darius today, and it would seem the thrust of that strategy is to buy time for further contract negotiations between the team and its strong safety.
"This is a new (coaching) staff that had a limited time to evaluate the roster. The deadline was today. You come to a point that you have to make a decision to 'franchise' him or not," Jaguars football operations director Paul Vance told jaguars.com.
Head coach Jack Del Rio and personnel director James Harris now have more time to evaluate Darius' role in the team's future, while Vance explores the possibility of reaching agreement on a new contract with Darius. Had the team not acted on the "franchise" designation today, the Jaguars would've surrendered their rights to Darius on Feb. 28, the first day of the NFL's new calendar year, if they had not signed him to a new contract.
If the Jaguars don't sign Darius to a new deal by Feb. 28, he will become an unrestricted free agent, free to negotiate with any team in the league. However, as a result of the "franchise" tag, the Jaguars would receive two first-round picks as compensation from any team that signs Darius to a contract. Of course, that's not likely to happen.
As a "franchise" player, Darius would be paid $3 million (the average of the top five salaries at his position in the league) in '03, but would not receive a signing bonus. Of course, players dislike being tagged because it's the bonus money they want most.
"We've had good talks with Donovin's agent (Tom Condon)," Vance said. "We would expect there would be further discussions."
NFL procedures governing the "franchise" tag are such:
- Before March 14 and after July 15, the Jaguars may sign Darius to a new contract and reclaim the "franchise" tag.
- Between March 14 and July 15, signing Darius to a new contract would result in the Jaguars losing the "franchise" tag for the duration of Darius' new contract.
- The Jaguars may remove the "franchise" tag at any time, which means another team could sign Darius without having to compensate the Jaguars.
Darius was the Jaguars' third-leading tackler last season, but he had no sacks and just one interception on a fake-punt play. He was a first-round draft choice in 1998, and he was named first alternate at safety for this past season's Pro Bowl.