Friday, July 27, 2007
Jags agree to deals with free safety Nelson, linebacker Durant
By Len Pasquarelli
The Jacksonville Jaguars opened training camp by closing the books on their rookie contract negotiations Friday, reaching agreements with the team's top two selections, first-round free safety Reggie Nelson of Florida and second-round linebacker Justin Durant from Hampton.
The 21st player chosen overall, Nelson has already been slotted as a starter as the Jaguars revamp the safety position after the departure of free safety Deon Grant as an unrestricted free agent and the recent release of strong safety Donovin Darius.
Gerald Sensabaugh, a third-year veteran who started seven games in 2006 after Darius was injured, is the new starting strong safety.
Nelson will sign a five-year contract with a maximum value of $13.1 million; the deal includes $7.1 million in guarantees.
Despite playing only two seasons for the Gators, Nelson was viewed as one of the college game's top safeties following a standout junior college stint. He is considered a hard-hitting playmaker with good instincts. At 5-feet-11 ¾ and 198 pounds, Nelson looks a bit undersized, but he has a live body and possesses exceptional explosiveness to the ball.
At the combine workouts, he was timed at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
In 25 games at Florida, including 18 starts, Nelson registered 97 tackles, six tackles for losses, seven interceptions, six passes defensed and one forced fumble. He is also a superb special teams player and, counting his junior college time, blocked seven kicks.
Durant was the 48th player chosen in April and like Nelson lacks prototype size (6-feet-0 7/8, 230 pounds) but has great quickness, as evidenced by his 4.51 time in the 40. While he is not projected as a starter for 2006, Durant's coverage skills could earn him playing time in passing situations.
The second-leading tackler in Hampton's school history, Durant finished his career with 353 tackles and also had 10 sacks, four interceptions, one forced fumble and three recoveries. He will sign a four-year, $3.4 million contract with $1.72 million in guarantees.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.