Ravens' Harris hired by Jaguars

Front office veteran joins Jacksonville as team's VP of player personnel

`Fortunate to get this opportunity'

Jags make move before Harris was to interview for Seahawks' GM job

January 24, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Blocking a potential interview with a competing team, the Jacksonville Jaguars moved swiftly in signing James Harris as their vice president of player personnel yesterday.

Harris, the Ravens' pro personnel director since 1997, was to interview for the Seattle Seahawks' general manager position today but instead flew to Jacksonville on Wednesday night and agreed to a contract yesterday morning.

The hiring comes two weeks after the Jaguars initiated their search - one in which Ravens director of college scouting Phil Savage, Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Tom Modrak, former Jacksonville personnel director Rick Reiprish and Harris interviewed for the job.

Savage was the team's first choice, but he and Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver could not agree on contract terms late last week.

Harris, meanwhile, brings 16 years of front office experience, the last six with the Ravens, with whom he was instrumental in the free-agent signings of Shannon Sharpe, Trent Dilfer, Sam Adams and Jeff Blake. Harris will reunite with Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who was linebackers coach for three seasons with the Ravens.

"It was just the opportunity," said Harris, who was an NFL quarterback for 12 years. "Working with Jack, I felt we have a good working relationship. That puts you in a position where you have a chance to win. I'm fortunate to get this opportunity."

The Ravens likely will promote assistant director of pro personnel George Kokinis to fill Harris' position. Kokinis, who handled advance scouting of opponents as well as free-agent evaluations, has been with owner Art Modell's franchise for 12 years.

"I am pleased for James Harris," Modell said in a statement. "The Jacksonville Jaguars hired a hard-working, knowledgeable, talented man. James is respected around the league. I think he's going to do very well in Jacksonville and bring a high level of credibility to their personnel department, as he did for the Ravens."

Harris expressed little concern over not being the Jaguars' first choice or how Jacksonville will delegate authority. Harris will not be the final decision-maker, as the team plans to use a four-pronged system in which Weaver, Harris, Del Rio, and senior vice president Paul Vance have close to equal says.

Harris, 55, is also likely to make between $300,000 and $500,000 annually, which is considerably less than Del Rio's $1.3 million-a-year salary. That was one of the primary reasons Savage passed on the job.

"It wasn't a good situation for Phil. He had to make his decision," Harris said. "I feel it's workable based on the people involved. The owner has the right to make a decision. You've just got to have confidence in people."

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