Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cornering the Market Beasley Rewarded after Career Season

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cornering the Market Beasley Rewarded after Career Season

Article excerpt

The Jaguars took major steps yesterday toward their free-agent goal of keeping their own when they agreed to terms on new contracts with cornerback Aaron Beasley and guard Zach Wiegert, and signed defensive tackle Seth Payne, while also placing a franchise label on defensive end Tony Brackens.

Even before the free-agent period officially opened at 12:01 a.m. today, the Jaguars had Beasley off the market and Brackens' ability to move greatly restricted by the franchise tag. Those two players were the key targets for the team as the Jaguars entered their sixth free-agent period.

Getting Wiegert and Payne, who was a restricted free agent, were added bonuses as the team also closed in on a deal late last night with linebacker Lonnie Marts.

"This is what we wanted to do," said Michael Huyghue, the Jaguars senior vice president of football operations. "We wanted to make sure we signed our own."

The Jaguars had freed up $8 to $10 million in salary cap room the last couple of weeks by restructuring some existing deals of their marquee players in order to be able sign their free agents and also label Brackens. By placing the tag on Brackens, he can only be signed by another team if it is willing to part with two first-round picks. Until he does sign a deal with another team, or get traded or sign a new deal with the Jaguars, Brackens will count $4.2 million against the cap, which is the average of the five highest-paid defensive ends in the league.

"Tony is certainly not happy about this," agent Michael George said. "We will still try and see if we can work out a deal with someone else."

The Jaguars still want to work out a deal with Brackens, who went to his first Pro Bowl last season after leading the team with 12 1/2 sacks.

"Our interest is to sign him," Huyghue said.

But the two sides are far apart and George said there hasn't been a lot of serious negotiating in the past six months. There is a chance the Jaguars could work out a trade for Brackens with another team for lesser compensation than two first-round picks. The Tampa Bay Bucs are said to be interested in a possible deal.

"He's 25 years old and one of the best ends in the league," George said. "There will be interest."

The signing of Beasley to what is believed to be a four-year deal worth $16 million means the Jaguars will keep a player they felt was key to the resurgence of their defense last season. Beasley led the team in interceptions with six, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Wiegert, who was due a roster bonus of $1 million yesterday, was waived so the Jaguars wouldn't have to pay the bonus money, and then was re-signed.

With these moves, the Jaguars have little cap room left, which means they will be limited in terms of what else they will be able to do the rest of the free-agent period. …

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