It's been the best offseason of Fred Taylor's life, and there was no hiding his joy as he spoke of his new contract and outlook on life.
"Am I happy? I'm ecstatic. I'm real excited," Taylor said following his offseason conditioning workout today at Alltel Stadium.
Taylor agreed to a four-year contract extension this past weekend. It's a deal that paid the star running back an $8 million signing bonus and secured his future with the Jaguars.
In the process, the contract also extinguished any possibility Taylor would be a training camp holdout this summer; that the 2003 season would be tainted by discontent and unrest.
"Business is business; maybe," Taylor said when asked if he would've been a training camp holdout had he not received a new contract. "I'm just excited it didn't get to that point."
Taylor's life is now far removed from any thoughts of discontent. He has a new contract, a new wife, a new son, a new house and some old money back. What was a career dogged by an unscrupulous agent and a rash of injuries would seem to be returned to full health.
"We didn't get all of it back, yet," Taylor said of the money he lost to former agent Tank Black. "We're just missing a little bit. We're almost there."
Taylor's new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, engineered a plan for his client's financial recovery. Part of that plan was an aggressive strategy for recovering more than $3 million Taylor had lost to Black. The recovery team Rosenhaus assembled traced Taylor's money to the Cayman Islands.
"I'm very protective of my stuff now. I've learned. I had to be smarter and not trust everybody. I have to be a smarter person as far as limiting the people I hang around with. I think it was to my advantage to have had that stuff happen to me a couple of years ago," Taylor said.
Last season, Taylor turned in one of the most productive performances of his career. For the first time, the five-year veteran played in all 16 games. His 1,314 yards rushing are the second-most of his career and his 49 pass receptions are a personal best.
"I want to win. I met with coach Del Rio a couple of times and I told him about my commitment. I just turned 27. I think I'm continuing to get better. I want to bust some stuff up and, hopefully, set some records," Taylor said.
"Some guys have certain levels of commitment. Mine has always been high, but it's like a new promise and commitment from (the team). They didn't have to do that," he said of the new contract. "I had another year left on my deal. It's up to me to re-commit myself and take my performance higher."