As I pointed out last week, starting Monday, February 20th, teams can begin applying the franchise tag to a player on their team. Last year, the Browns used the tag on kicker Phil Dawson, allowing him to earn about $3.2 million. They have the option to use the tag on Dawson again, which would bump his 2012 salary up to about $3.8 million. The deadline to make a decision on whether or not to use the franchise tag is March 5th, a week before free agency officially begins.
Before the Browns make any decision on Dawson, they'll have to see what happens in their negotiations with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. The team has made no secret about their commitment to keeping him, and Jackson has made no secret about his intentions to stay. You can pretty much guarantee that Jackson will be a member of the Browns next season, even if the two sides can't reach a multi-year agreement. According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer, Jackson is seeking a five-year deal. If a deal can't be reached, the team will apply the franchise tag on him.
The Browns will franchise linebacker D'Qwell Jackson if they can't sign him to a multi-year deal, a league source told the Plain Dealer Friday. The 2012 franchise salary for linebackers is expected to be about $8.8 million.
In a discussion with Jackson's agent, Cabot indicates that the two sides will be working hard to get the multi-year deal done prior to free agency. The real deadline is March 5th though, because I refuse to believe the Browns will risk Jackson getting to free agency; I think they've already decided that they would be content bringing him back for $8.8 million in 2012. That might leave Dawson out of consideration though since it would allow him to test the free agent waters if he chose to.