Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags' Spending Spree May Be Saving Grace

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags' Spending Spree May Be Saving Grace

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, Times-Union sports writer

Jack Del Rio is being careful not to get carried away about his team's 180-degree turn in free agency -- from window-shoppers to frequent buyers.

"You can paint it any way you want," Del Rio said. "The bottom line is we're going to assemble a group of men and they're going to make up their mind what 2003 is going to look like."

Right now, the picture looks better than most of us imagined.

The Jaguars' canvas may not be a finished product, but a recent spending spree that brought pass-rushing demon Hugh Douglas to Jacksonville gives fans legitimate hope that the process of becoming a playoff contender again is speeding up.

Now I'm not suggesting that the $11.2 million in signing bonuses and $7-plus million in cap money that the Jaguars invested in five free agents translates into an immediate AFC South division title.

But the Jaguars' release from salary cap-tivity -- enabling them to sign Douglas, linebackers Mike Peterson and Keith Mitchell, wide receiver Donald Hayes and fullback Marc Edwards -- casts this team in a different light.

Suddenly, the slogan of a "new era" is a message with evidence beyond just a coaching change. Now players are being signed who aren't just minimum-wage guys with little chance of being difference-makers.

Granted, Hayes is hit-or-miss and Mitchell's role is as vague as a lot of Del Rio's answers to hard-hitting questions. But Edwards brings a lot more excitement at fullback, which was exclusively a glorified blocker in the Tom Coughlin regime.

After the Jaguars signed Peterson, a significant upgrade in speed and pass coverage, the presumption was that'd be the extent of the team's big spending.

Then the Eagle soared into town. And that could be a spark that ignites the 2003 Jaguars, providing Douglas, 31, is the force that he was during his past three Pro Bowl seasons in Philadelphia. …

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