JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Marcedes Lewis went through last season, the NFL lockout and the first week of training camp without a long-term contract.
He always figured it would get done. It just took longer than expected.
Lewis signed a five-year contract worth about $35 million with the Jaguars on Friday, locking up the Pro Bowl tight end for what both sides believes will be the prime of his career. Lewis will get nearly $17 million guaranteed.
"If it took long, it was to supposed to take long," he said. "But it got done and that's all that matters."
The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on Lewis after he caught 58 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns — all career highs — in 2010. The 6-foot-6, 262-pounder signed a one-year tender worth $7.28 million, the average salary of the five highest-paid tight ends in the league.
He said earlier this week he didn't expect to be the highest-paid player at his position, but he certainly came close.
San Francisco's Vernon Davis has a five-year deal worth $37 million, including $23 million guaranteed. San Diego's Antonio Gates is close behind with a five-year, $36.175 million contract that includes $20.4 million guaranteed.
"It was just compensating me for my skill set and what I bring to the team on and off the field, in the community and what I'll be able to do in the future," Lewis said. "I feel like both sides were able to come to an agreement to where everybody was happy."
Lewis, the 28th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, has developed into one of the league's best all-around tight ends. He blocks defensive ends, beats linebackers up and down the field and creates holes for running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He also has become quarterback David Garrard's go-to guy, evidence by his red-zone numbers.
"If I sat here and didn't say I feel like I'm the best all-around tight end in the league, I'd be lying to you," Lewis said. "But that's not for me to say. That's for you to judge, and I'm going to continue to go out there and work hard and give nothing less than my best. That's what I've been doing this whole time and I'm going to continue to get better. A lot of people think I did really well last year, but I feel like I'm just touching the surface, so I'm excited about the opportunity to be going into this year with security and knowing that I'm in an organization that wants me here."
Lewis has 181 receptions and 17 touchdowns in five seasons.
The NFL lockout prevented Lewis' agent and the Jaguars from working out a long-term contract, and Lewis skipped the first five days of training camp while waiting for a new deal. He reported to camp Monday, but sat out full-contact drills while the contract was being negotiated. He signed it Friday morning and should practice soon.
"I think if you put me in a workout outside of football, I'll smash it," Lewis said. "But if you go out there on the football field, it's totally different. ... You have to be in football to get into football shape and I'm excited to finally get in there and run plays and get my legs back to where they need to be and my leverage and everything like that and to be out there and really working with my teammates and I'm excited about that."