Safety begging for trade
Mark Craig, Star Tribune
March 8, 2005
Jacksonville Jaguars franchise player Donovin Darius wants to be traded to the Vikings so badly, the safety sent a 51-word e-mail to the Star Tribune and then followed it up with a 30-minute telephone conversation in which he all but begged the Vikings to make the deal.
"Tell the fans up there that if I had my choice of any team in the league to play for, it would be the Minnesota Vikings," Darius said. "I've looked at every team in the league, and it's definitely the best fit for both sides."
The Vikings need a physical veteran with leadership qualities at safety. The 6-1, 225-pound Darius, who has played seven seasons at strong safety for the Jaguars, not only fits the job description, but was given written permission by the Jaguars last Thursday to explore a trade.
The Vikings are interested, but they have yet to contact the Jaguars. Citing NFL rules against tampering, Rob Brzezinski, Vikings vice president of football operations, declined comment Monday night other than to say, "Donovin is a great player, no doubt about that."
Making the trade won't be easy, or come cheaply.
The Jaguars probably would ask for the Vikings' second first-round draft pick, the 18th overall, or their second-round pick and a player. And Darius, who has been Jacksonville's franchise player each of the past three years, wants a long-term deal.
The Vikings are an NFL-high $31 million under the $85.5 million salary cap. However, the pending sale of the team has created problems in acquiring players this offseason because owner Red McCombs has been demanding that up-front bonuses be deferred until after the sale is approved by the NFL owners.
"I promise that I will not ask for more than the market value on a long-term contract," Darius said. "That's all I've tried to get from the Jaguars for three years, but each time, they've given me an unfair offer because they know they can just franchise me."
The 29-year-old Darius is one of the NFL's most outspoken players against the franchise rule, which allows teams to keep one player off the free-agent market in exchange for a one-year tender worth the average of the top five players at his position. If a player doesn't sign, the only way he can leave is if another team is willing to part with two first-round draft picks.
Darius signed his one-year, $4.97 million tender, marched into Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver's office on Feb. 28 and had a heated exchange.
"I told him he has abused the franchise tag long enough and that I can no longer put on that Jaguars uniform with the same kind of pride I used to," Darius said. "I'm not saying I will never play for them if they don't trade me. But I did tell Wayne Weaver that I lost respect for him as an owner and the entire organization. I said, 'You guys really disgust me.' "
Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards said Jacksonville is not "shopping Donovin" and has not spoken to any teams about a trade.
Darius and his agent, Tom Condon, sent a letter to every NFL team. According to Darius, Kansas City, San Diego, Miami, Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit and the Vikings expressed interest. Detroit has since signed free-agent safety Kenoy Kennedy.
"That's OK," Darius said. "My focus is the Vikings."
Darius said the Vikings' tradition, fan support, recent upgrades on defense and need at safety all play a role in his interest.
Darius, a first-round pick for Jacksonville in 1998, has started 103 games and averaged 80 tackles per season. In 2004, he had career highs in tackles (87) and interceptions (five), and he also was fined $75,000 by the league for a vicious hit to the head of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Robert Ferguson (Darius argues that it was an accidental collision).
"I've talked a lot the last week about my desire to leave Jacksonville," Darius said. "But this is the first time I've gone directly to another NFL city and appealed to them that I want to play for their team."
I'm all for it if we give up a 2nd rounder for him even he's a dirty player.