The Jaguars have added cornerbacks Dewayne Washington and Lewis Sanders to their list of free-agent acquisitions, and the team could announce a significant signing this afternoon.
Washington and Sanders are players at opposite ends of their careers. The Jaguars were attracted to Washington for what he has done; to Sanders for what he might do.
"We were involved with other players, but they signed with someone or wanted more money. We put a value on a player and early in the market you can't always match what another team wants to pay a player," Jaguars personnel boss "Shack" Harris said of the trend in signing second-tier free agents during the first week of the free agency period.
With the additions of Washington and Sanders, the Jaguars have acquired five players in free agency – tight end Todd Yoder, linebacker Tommy Hendricks and offensive lineman Mike Compton are the other three – and re-signed offensive lineman Sammy Williams. None of those acquisitions are making the hearts of Jaguars fans beat faster, but the possibility exists the team will announce its most high-profile acquisition of the free agency period this afternoon.
Washington is a 10-year veteran who was a fixture in the starting lineup for Pittsburgh from 1998 until midseason of last year. That's when he lost his starting job to DeShea Townsend. But the Jaguars like Washington's skills as a veteran who might give the Jaguars security and competition at the cornerback position made vacant when Fernando Bryant signed last week with the Lions.
Sanders, a four-year veteran from Maryland, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2000 draft by the Browns. At 6-1, 210, he's an impressive physical specimen but his career has been dogged by injuries. If Sanders can put the hurts aside, Harris believes Sanders could be a major signing.
"Big guy; he can play corner or safety. You're hoping these guys who've been around 3-4 years have matured. We may be catching him where he's maturing. He's always been a promising type of guy. Every signing can't be for a starter," Harris said of Sanders.
Jaguars Director of Pro Personnel Charles Bailey was with the Steelers when they signed Washington in '98. "He's a savvy veteran who's been a very durable player. He's strong vs. the run. He has not missed any games. He's played on a lot of winning teams. He's a good person and a good fit for us; very competitive," Bailey said of Washington.
"We were in the corner business, but when the numbers get to the point they're bigger than your number," Harris said, his voice trailing off into the obvious. The Jaguars are thought to have been interested in at least one big-name corner.
Harris offered these thoughts on his first three free-agent acquisitions:
"He could be competitive at tight end and play special teams," Harris said of Yoder.
"Hendricks is a linebacker who's a real good special teams player and can compete for a spot; another guy who gives us competition. We knew we had to get a linebacker who could play special teams," Harris said.
Compton was signed for his versatility. He has played every line position during his 11-year career, and he played for Jaguars offensive line coach Paul Boudreau in Detroit.
"You may have to go to seven offensive linemen," Harris said of midseason roster adjustments that are sometimes necessary. "So you need a guy who can play center and guard."
In other news, veteran kicker Matt Stover has decided to return to the Ravens, after entertaining an offer from the Jaguars. Having been unsuccessful in attempts to acquire Stover and the Bengals' Shayne Graham, the Jaguars' search for a kicker may have to wait until the draft.
"There are not a lot of options left in the kicking game," Harris said.