This will not be a rebuilding year.
The Jaguars made that fact plainly obvious over the last three days, topping their four-player free-agent haul with the addition today of veteran defensive end Hugh Douglas.
Rebuilding year? Not at these prices. And you thought the Jaguars had sworn off free agency forever. How about $11,125,000 in bonus money paid over a three-day period?
Douglas, 6-2, 280, was the top defensive end available in unrestricted free agency, and he didn't come cheap. Along with the additions of linebackers Mike Peterson and Keith Mitchell, the Jaguars defense has undergone a dramatic facelift in a three-day period. As for the offense, the team also announced today it has signed veteran fullback Marc Edwards, an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots.
Douglas agreed to a five-year contract that includes a $6 million signing bonus. Douglas will earn salaries of $655,000 in 2003, $3.455 million in '04, $5 million in '05, $5.5 million in '06 and $6 million with a $500,000 roster bonus in '07. His bonus amortization will average $1.2 million per year and he will be a $1.855 million salary cap hit this year.
"'Shack' (James Harris) and Jack (Del Rio) had already identified (Douglas) as a premier player, and we had identified to his agent that, although we didn't want to play at high (contract) levels, there was interest," Jaguars salary cap boss and lead contract negotiator Paul Vance told jaguars.com this morning.
Douglas' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, contacted Vance early Friday afternoon to determine if the Jaguars still had interest in the pass-rusher, who will turn 32 before the start of next season. Negotiations proceeded quickly.
Of course, the immediate question on the minds of Jaguars fans is: How does the addition of Douglas impact Tony Brackens' future?
"We're in the same place as we were prior to this; hopeful Tony will regain his form," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio told jaguars.com. "We would love to have both of them on the field chasing quarterbacks on third down."
Brackens and Douglas each play defensive right end, but Del Rio said, "We'd be able to find room for them. That wouldn't be a problem."
Of course, Brackens underwent major knee surgery last season, and the Jaguars won't know if Brackens has made a full recovery until they test him on the field in this spring's mini-camps.
Douglas started all 16 games for the Eagles last season. He produced 12.5 sacks, which tied for the second-highest total in his eight-year career.
"We feel he still has some juice," Del Rio said of Douglas, who was NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1995, when Douglas was a surprise first-round draft choice by the Jets from Central State of Ohio. Douglas' position coach that season was Ray Hamilton, who was recently hired by Del Rio to coach Jaguars defensive linemen.
"He's been a special player in the league for a number of years and we're happy to add him to our defense. We stated at the outset that we wanted to increase team speed and play-making ability. Adding Hugh will certainly help the pass-rush," Del Rio added.
Douglas was the fifth defensive end selected in the '95 draft, when the Jets made Kyle Brady their first of two first-round selections. Ironically, Douglas' first professional sack came at the expense of Mark Brunell in week three of that season.
After three seasons with the Jets, Douglas went to the Eagles in a trade. He responded with a 12.5-sack season in 1998 and a personal-best 15 sacks in 2000. He has 73.5 career sacks, to go with 12 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and one interception.
Lost in the ballyhoo of the Douglas signing is the addition of Edwards, who gives the Jaguars a block-catch-run combination at fullback the team has never had. In New England last year, Edwards had 31 rushing attempts for 96 yards and caught 23 passes for 196 yards. In Edwards' six-year career, he has rushed for 392 yards and two touchdowns, and has caught 119 passes for 968 yards and eight touchdowns.
Edwards, 6-0, 245, was a second-round pick by the 49ers in 1997. The former Notre Dame star has also played in Cleveland, and he has never missed a game in his pro career.
The Jaguars and Edwards have agreed to a three-year, $3 million contract that includes an $875,000 signing bonus and salaries of $530,000 in '03, $750,000 in '04 and $845,000 in '05. Edwards will be an $821,666 cap hit in '03.