The Jaguars decided not to risk losing special teams ace Montell Owens the way they lost their punter, Adam Podlesh.
The Jaguars let Podlesh become a free agent, and he left for Chicago after the lockout. Matt Turk has struggled in his place.
So even though Owens is currently sidelined with a sprained medial collateral ligament and his contract wasn't due to expire until after the 2012 season, he and the team came to terms on a three-year contract extension.
The Jaguars lead the league with $34.5 million in salary-cap space.
Owens is underpaid as one of the league's best special teams players with a $1.2 million base salary and a $400,000 roster bonus this year, and he still had another year left on his old deal.
They Jaguars also paid another special teams ace, Kassim Osgood, $6.75 million in a three-year deal to lure him from San Diego as a free agent last year.
So they gave Owens a contract extension that ties him to the Jaguars through the 2015 season. It also makes him the highest paid special teams player, according to Owens' agent, Abu Toppin.
The three-year extension starting in 2013 is similar to Osgood's, but Owens also got a $1.5 million signing bonus and a $1.2 million roster bonus next year.
That means he will make $11,275,000 million through 2015 with $9,275,000 in new money and $4.65 million in guaranteed money.
"It says a lot about what they think of Montell," Toppin said of the new contract. He said he approached the Jaguars about upgrading Owens' deal, and that the team indicated it had already had internal discussions about extending the contract.
In the past, the Jaguars have extended players like Rashean Mathis and Daryl Smith with two years remaining on their deals.
The Jaguars gave Owens the new deal even though he suffered a sprained MCL against Carolina and missed the Saints game after playing in every game the previous four seasons. Toppin said Owens should be back in a couple of weeks. The talks were well under way even before Owens was injured.
Owens signed as an undrafted free agent running back out of Maine in 2006 and faced an uphill climb just to make the roster.
Even so, he carved out a role for himself on special teams and established himself as one of the best special teams players in the league. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time last season after being an alternate to Osgood in 2009.
Owens went into the season holding the franchise record of 95 special teams tackles. He has two this season.