The Cleveland Browns were willing to part ways with veteran inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson last week, but they still had to make a decision on their other inside linebacker, Craig Robertson. Although Robertson was not an unrestricted free agent (UFA), he was an exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA).
The ERFA label applies to players who have less than three accrued seasons in the NFL (i.e. 6 games or less on the roster or IR). In 2013, Robertson logged his second accrued season. Under the ERFA rules, that means that the Browns could offer Robertson a one-year tender worth $570,000, which is equivalent to the minimum salary for a player with two accrued seasons. Because Robertson was an ERFA, if the Browns made an offer to him, no other team would be able to sign him, period.
Sidebar: The previous sentence is part of what distinguishes Robertson from a restricted free agent (RFA). If Robertson agrees to the ERFA tender, he would be a RFA in 2015, which is when a tender would cost significantly more for Cleveland, and other teams could sign him despite a tender.
According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports, the Browns have placed the ERFA tender on Robertson:
#NYG tendered Spencer Paysinger ($1.431M) and Dallas Reynolds ($570K). #Browns tendered Craig Robertson ($570K).— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 4, 2014
Assuming Robertson does not quit the NFL, he will be forced to sign the tender and play for the Browns in 2014. That doesn't mean his role as a starter is safe, though. Robertson was one of the more disappointing performers on defense in 2013, particularly in coverage against running backs and tight ends.