The Jaguars will use the "franchise" tag for a third consecutive year to retain strong safety Donovin Darius.
Darius would earn about $5 million in 2005 as a "non-exclusive franchise" player, which would pay him at the 2004 average of the top five salaries in the league at the safety position. Darius is capable of signing with another team but that team would owe the Jaguars two first-round draft picks as compensation for signing Darius.
The move provides the Jaguars a means for protecting their rights to Darius, who they can trade once he signs the "franchise" tender. "Franchising" Darius also permits the team to continue negotiations with him and his agent, Tom Condon, on a long-term contract. The league provides windows during which a contract agreement may be reached and the "franchise" tag is recovered by the team. The first deadline for signing Darius to a long-term deal and recovering the "franchise" tag is March 15.
Darius enjoyed the best season of his seven-year career in '04, when he and cornerback Rashean Mathis tied for the team lead in interceptions with five each. Darius was also the team's third-leading tackler.
Under terms of the "franchise" designation, the $4.968 million Darius would earn in '05 becomes guaranteed when he signs the tender. If he was traded, his new team would inherit the responsibility for that guarantee.
As a "franchise" player in '03 and '04, Darius earned $3 million and $4 million respectively. All of the $5 million the Jaguars would pay Darius in '05 would be subtracted from this year's salary cap. The Jaguars will enter free agency on March 2 with about $17 million of room under the $85.5 million cap.