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Leftwich number one again


Byron Leftwich is still "The Man."

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio made that announcement on Thursday, speaking from Indianapolis, where Del Rio is attending the NFL scouting combine.

"Shack (personnel director James Harris) and his staff and me and my staff, including the new coaches, have completed our evaluation processes and, in our minds, there's a confirmation and consensus that Byron Leftwich is our starting quarterback going forward," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said he has communicated that decision to Leftwich.

"I have. We've spoken. I talked to him the week after the Super Bowl. We spent three hours talking," Del Rio said. "When you lose your starting quarterback, it puts your head coach into an awkward situation. There were some awkward situations we potentially could've handled better. It's unrealistic for anybody to lose their quarterback and not be confronted with those situations. We've resolved to go forward."

Del Rio confirmed that Leftwich will be the team's starting quarterback going into training camp and that David Garrard and Quinn Gray would be retained. He also said the team would not attempt to sign a quarterback in free agency.

"What I would offer is that there is always competition but we're not creating an open competition," Del Rio said.

On the subject of the upcoming free-agent signing period, Del Rio said the crop of available players is not attractive. "Teams are doing a much better job of re-signing their guys or 'franchising' their guys, so the market is not robust. Less and less front-line people are available," he said.

"The last couple of years we have taken a shot at filling needs in free agency and were active early. In both cases we found great fits and those guys were exactly what we were looking for," he added, referring to the additions of defensive end Reggie Hayward in 2005 and cornerback Brian Williams in '06.

It's not likely the Jaguars will be active in the expensive phase of free agency this year. The team is more likely to pursue affordable free agents who might step into specific roles.

"We feel like over the last four years we've improved the roster. We've drafted a lot of talent offensively that we feel confident will continue to develop. We feel we've assembled a strong football team that will compete with anybody. We've got a healthy cap and some guys returning from injury that make it like almost having a whole draft class coming back. When those guys come through the door, it's going to be like having a free-agent class joining us," Del Rio said, referring to the return of players such as Hayward, Mike Peterson, Greg Jones, Donovin Darius, Pat Thomas and Brent Hawkins. All of them were lost for the season due to injury.

"I'm excited about what we've built," Del Rio said.

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