Jags upgrade pass rush with addition of Douglas
By Len Pasquarelli
Continuing the wholesale overhauling of their defense, the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday signed one of the most prized commodities from the unrestricted free agent market, snatching three-time Pro Bowl end Hugh Douglas from the clutches of his more publicized suitors.
The deal culminated a 24-hour period in which the Jaguars became very aggressive in the chase for Douglas, one of the few "difference makers" still available in free agency on the defensive side of the ball. As some of the other clubs were stepping away from a possible deal, the Jags stepped up.
Intense negotiations between agent Drew Rosenhaus and Jacksonville vice president Paul Vance netted Douglas a five-year deal worth $27.01 million, including a $6 million signing bonus. The base salaries are $665,000 (for 2003), $3.345 million (2004), $5 million (2005), $5 million (2006) and $6 million (2007). There are roster bonuses of $500,000 each in 2006-2007.
"He's ecstatic," said Rosenhaus. "He loves the situation here."
Beyond the financial ramifications, Douglas opted for the Jaguars because of the geographical proximity to his offseason home in Atlanta, the sales pitch by rookie coach Jack Del Rio, and his belief the team is far better than advertised and can be a playoff contender in 2003.
While the Jaguars were characterized by some as a late entry into the pursuit of Douglas, there had been continuing dialogue between club officials and Rosenhaus for more than a week, but it only intensified in recent days. The club had tried to arrange a visit earlier but Douglas decided against it.
The eight-year veteran met with the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants. He also said that he would consider returning to the Eagles as a possibility. The Giants were subsequently eliminated and the Eagles dropped out of the bidding on Friday afternoon. Inexplicably, the Eagles did not make an offer until Wednesday. The best offer from Kansas City was for an average of about $3.3 million for three years.
Rumors early Friday indicated Seattle had become the frontrunner.
At some point Friday, however, the Jaguars moved into the favorite's role. On Saturday, after Douglas passed the physical exam and demonstrated that the knee problems that frequently kept him out of practices in 2002 were not serious, the deal was struck.
Douglas, 31, is one of the NFL's top weakside ends and has posted double-digit sacks four times in his eight-year career. That includes 12ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks in 2002, a total that permitted him to void the 2003 segment of his contract.
He was acquired by the Eagles from the New York Jets in 1998 in what has to rank as one of the most lopsided trades of the past decade. In return for Douglas, who had 22 sacks during his three seasons in New York, the Jets received second- and fifth-round draft choices that year. New York then dealt that second-round pick to Pittsburgh and used the fifth-rounder to take linebacker Casey Dailey, who is out of the league.
The former Central State (Ohio) star was chosen by the Jets in the first round of the 1995 draft, having demonstrated in the postseason and at the combine that he could play with prospects from more prominent football programs. He made Jets scouts look very smart by earning defensive rookie of the year honors while notching 33 tackles and 10 sacks.
Passionate and outspoken, the colorful Douglas is certainly a catalyst who can stir things up on the field, and he is clearly a locker room presence.
Douglas has 318 tackles, 73ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks and 13 forced fumbles in his career. He has 90 starts among his 106 appearances. Outside of his rookie season and the 1999 campaign, when a partial tear in the medial collateral ligament of his left knee limited him to four games, he has started 10 games or more.
The acquisition of Douglas culminates a dizzying sequence in which Del Rio sought to improve a defense which statistically rated 20th in the league in 2002. The club added linebackers Mike Peterson and Keith Mitchell on Thursday and Friday, respectively, in free agency. Those two players, along with Douglas, will certainly upgrade Jacksonville's defensive speed.
And acquiring Douglas all but ends the seven-year tenure of defensive end Tony Brackens with the franchise. Brackens was already likely to be a June 1 salary cap casualty and Douglas' presence ensures that.
Beset by knee injuries, Brackens has played in just 17 games over the past two seasons, including only five contests in 2002. The franchise's career sack leader, with 49, he finished the season on the injured reserve list.
Brackens, 28, has a 2003 salary cap charge of $8.211 million. By waiting until after June 1 to release him, the Jaguars could spread out a cap hit of about $9.5 million between this season and next, and realize a savings of $5.55 million on the 2003 spending limit.
Douglas would replace Brackens at right end, with Marco Coleman the starting left end.
The departure of Douglas from the Eagles leaves Philadelphia without a proven outside pass rush threat. There have been rumors that, if the club lost Douglas, it might pursue Green Bay restricted free agent end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and attempt to sign him to an offer sheet.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Jags upgrade pass rush with addition of Douglas
Now that is how you upgrade a defense. Anyone have Loomis\' email address. I think maybe we should send him that article.
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