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Jermaine Lewis signs with Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 20 (UPI) -- Jermaine Lewis, a two-time Pro Bowler as a kick returner, signed a three-year contract Thursday with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Terms were not disclosed, but Lewis reportedly got $3 million, including a signing bonus of $1 million.

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Lewis was a major disappointment with the expansion Houston Texans last season. The Texans hoped Lewis, 28, also would emerge as wide receiver, but that did not happen.

The 5-7, 180 pounder struggled with the physical demands of a wideout, catching just two passes for 41 yards.

As Houston's primary returner, Lewis averaged 20.9 yards on 46 kick returns and 7.8 yards on 36 punt returns.

He was one of the league's premier returners in his six years with Baltimore from 1996-2001, recording six touchdowns on punts and returning a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown in a Super Bowl XXXV.

Jaguars Personel Director James Harris and new coach Jack Del Rio are familiar with Lewis from their days in Baltimore. Harris was an assistant to Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, and Del Rio was a linebackers coach.

"A returner is a playmaker and can change field position," Harris told the Jacksonville Times-Union. "Some teams wouldn't kick to him. He can change the field position of a game very quickly. He has tremendous pure speed. He makes good decisions, sets up his blocking, knows when to fair catch (on punts), and has a knack for returning."

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In 2000, Lewis led the NFL with a 16.1-yard punt return average, the highest for a player with at least 30 punt returns in NFL history.

In his early days with the Ravens, Lewis, a salary cap casualty in Houston, was a major threat as a wideout. He caught 42 and 41 passes and scored six touchdowns in each of the 1997 and '98 seasons.

Lewis, who runs the 40 in 4.3 seconds, has played in the NFL seven years. He replaces Bobby Shaw, who signed a free agent deal with Buffalo.

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