Jaguars look to Porter to fill longtime void at WR
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who have been searching for a No. 1 wide receiver since Jimmy Smith retired, reached a contract agreement Friday with Jerry Porter, one of the top wide receivers in the unrestricted free agent market.
Porter, 29, was expected to sign a six-year, $30 million contract later on Friday. He played the first eight years of his career with the Oakland Raiders.
In addition, the Jaguars on Friday completed a trade they agreed to earlier in the week, adding former Minnesota first-round wide receiver Troy Williamson in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick. Williamson, who has two years remaining on his contract and is scheduled to make $910,000 in 2008 and $1.4 million in 2009, was a disappointment in his three seasons with the Vikings.
"We're giving Troy a chance, an opportunity for him to come down here and rejuvenate himself, have fun, don't worry about the high expectations that were associated with his selection and his place there," coach Jack Del Rio said.
With the emergence of quarterback David Garrard in his first season as the full-time starter in 2007, the Jaguars are making a concerted effort to upgrade his arsenal of receivers in an attempt to close the gap with Indianapolis in the division.Since Smith retired in 2005, the Jaguars haven't had a wideout catch more than 52 passes in a season. Ernest Wilford led the Jags with 45 receptions last season, but he is expected to leave the team as an unrestricted free agent.
Jumping quickly into the market, Jacksonville also bolstered its depth chart behind Garrard on Friday, signing former Miami part-time starting quarterback Cleo Lemon to a three-year, $9 million deal that could grow to $12 million depending on how they use him over the year.
A four-year veteran, Lemon will now supplant Quinn Gray as the primary backup to Garrard.
The moves are part of a makeover for Jacksonville, which finished 11-5 last season and beat Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jaguars changed four assistant coaches and expect even more personnel moves in hopes of closing the gap on AFC powers Indianapolis and New England. Jacksonville opened free agency about $30 million under the salary cap.
That number could grow, too, since the team gave three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud permission to seek a trade.
"Everything we're doing is geared toward putting a better product on the field next year and contending for a championship," Del Rio said.
The prize on Jacksonville's busy day, though, was clearly Porter.
The former West Virginia star, a second-round pick in 2000, has 284 career catches for 3,339 yards and 30 touchdowns. His best seasons in Oakland were in 2004 and 2005, when he had 140 catches for 1,940 yards and 14 touchdowns. In all, Porter appeared in 105 games for the Raiders.
Porter fell out of favor with then-Raiders coach Art Shell in 2006 -- the year he demanded a trade in training camp, was suspended two weeks for conduct detrimental to the team and was inactive for nine games. He made just four appearances and caught only one pass that season.
"We're satisfied that those are things that we believe will stay in his past," Del Rio said.
He had 44 receptions for 705 yards and six touchdowns in 2007, playing in 16 games. Porter then exercised the right void his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.
The Jaguars also plan to address some defensive holes.
Stroud missed eight games the last two seasons because of a nagging ankle injury. He also was suspended four games last year for violating the league's steroid and related substances policy. Del Rio has said the former first-round draft pick probably won't return to full speed.
"Obviously, this is a production-based business," Del Rio said. "Right now, he's a Jaguar. His agent has permission to look for an opportunity, but there's not a fire sale."
There might be a signing frenzy, though. Del Rio said the team was looking to make more deals -- just not at receiver, where Jacksonville has drafted four players the last four years, signed two free agents and traded for Williamson.
"We feel like we've adequately addressed that position from a standpoint of adding one proven guy and adding one guy that's got a lot of promise and potential," Del Rio said.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Senior writer John Clayton and The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
2008 FREE AGENCY
NFL teams began shopping for free agents on Feb. 29, with approximately 320 players available. Randy Moss (right), one of the top free agents available, re-signed with the Pats.
• Free-agent tracker
Commentary/Features• Paolantonio: Raiders wasting cash on Hall
• Clayton: Raiders immersed in spending spree
• Yasinskas: Bucs spending wisely
• Third And Short: Free-agent analysis
• Clayton: Best remaining players
• Clayton: Top 10 free-agent gambles
• Yasinskas: Saints rolling dice on Vilma, Morgan
• Sando: Role players cashing in
• Yasinskas: Jets improved, but QB remains issue
• Yasinskas: Browns focused on winning
• Clayton: Moss-Patriots deal meant to be
• Clayton: Winners and losers
• Chadiha: Reese sets the standard for rookie GMs
• Yasinskas: Five aggressive teams in the market
• Pasquarelli: Big payoffs await less-heralded FAs
• Clayton: It's better to keep your own guys
• Research: Top 10 free agents of all time
• Yasinskas: Redskins to try new approach
• Joyner: Evaluating four big names
• Chadiha: Dealing with the franchise tag
• Panthers continue O-line makeover, sign Brown
• Browns help LB depth, sign Orr to 1-year contract March 20
• Pats agree to deal with CB Bryant
• Roundup: Rams re-sign Romberg March 19
• Packers agree with LB Chillar
• Bengals' Andrews signs franchise tender
• Punter Turk re-signs with Texans
• Colts keep defensive end Thomas with new deal