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Jaguars 'franchise' Darius for third time

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2005) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars designated Donovin Darius their franchise player for the third consecutive year, likely ensuring the hard-hitting safety will remain with the team.

The Jaguars are required to offer Darius a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at his position last season or give him a 20 percent raise, whichever is greater.

Darius still may negotiate with other teams. But if he signs an offer sheet elsewhere, the Jaguars would have the right to match the offer or accept two first-round draft choices as compensation for losing him.

Two first-rounders would seem to be a high price for Darius, who hasn't made the Pro Bowl in seven seasons.

He was third on the team with 125 tackles last season and tied for the team lead with five interceptions.

The Jaguars could have parted ways with Darius and tried to replace him through free agency or the draft, but they have other areas to fill on defense, notably at defensive end, cornerback and linebacker.

Also Tuesday, the Jags signed free agent offensive lineman Brent Smith. A third-round pick by Miami in 1997, Smith played in four games with the New York Jets last season.

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