Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is reportedly in the beginning stages of contract negotiations with the Browns organization and will likely be signed before he becomes a free agent the first week in March. However, if the Browns cannot reach a deal before the deadline, Cleveland reportedly plans to use the franchise tag on Jackson which would ensure his position on the team for at least one more season.
According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, Jackson is looking for a five-year deal from Cleveland and the Browns are slightly hesitant to make that sort of commitment given his history of injuries. If the Browns would use the franchise tag, the team would reportedly be paying Jackson a salary near the $9 million for the 2012 season.
According to Hensley, "The Browns have around $21 million in salary-cap space. That means the franchise tag on Jackson will eat up for more than 40 percent of that."
That may be troublesome for this Cleveland team that was expected to be big players in the free-agent market as well as a significant piece in the NFL draft picture. Losing that type of cap space could limit the Browns ability to attract any type of top-tier free agents and sign their draft picks to long-term deals.
Jackson finished the 2011 season as the leading defensive producer on the Browns and was second in the league for the voting for the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Jackson was also second in the entire NFL with 158 tackles after missing 26 games over the past two seasons due to pectoral injuries.