Resigned to playing a third straight season under the one-year qualifying offer for a franchise safety, Donovin Darius has begun working out at the Jacksonville Jaguars complex, and has informed team officials that he will attend the voluntary organized activities next week.
Until this week, when he returned to the complex for individual conditioning, Darius had skipped all of the Jaguars' offseason activities. That included a mandatory three-day mini-camp last weekend, an absence for which Darius was fined.
Representatives for the seven-year veteran said this week that Darius would soon return to the team. Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards confirmed that the strong safety had begun working out at the team complex earlier this week.
The team's first-round choice in 1998, Darius, 29, had hoped to be traded this offseason, and the Jaguars certainly attempted to oblige him. Several teams indicated an interest in Darius, but none was willing to meet Jacksonville's price tag of a high-round draft pick.
Darius adopted a proactive stance in attempting to facilitate a trade, openly lobbying for the Minnesota Vikings or Miami Dolphins to acquire him. Darius contacted reporters in Miami and the Twin Cities, soliciting interviews, and then professing his desire to play for the Dolphins or Vikings.
His unhappiness with the Jaguars stems, in part, from the inability to land a lucrative, long-term contract from the team. This marked the third straight offseason in which the Jaguars designated Darius a franchise player and the third year in which he signed the one-year qualifying offer.
Barring a contract extension, which is unlikely given the acrimony that exists between Darius and some members of management, he will earn $4.97 million for 2005. Darius would then be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring, and the Jaguars could again impose the franchise marker on him to retain a right of first refusal.
There have been other players, notably offensive tackles Orlando Pace of St. Louis and Walter Jones of Seattle, who have been franchise players three straight years. No player has ever had the franchise label four years in a row.
Darius started all 16 games in 2004 and posted 125 tackles, third most on the team. In a season in which his coverage skills improved markedly, Darius also had career highs in interceptions (five) and passes defensed (eight). The former Syracuse standout has been a starter since his rookie season.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.