Lack of long-term deals with franchise players brings questions


Vincent Jackson remained on the franchise tag with the San Diego Chargers, as did Paul Soliai with the Miami Dolphins after the league deadline for those players to sign long-term contracts came and went Tuesday. And that at least raises some questions.

The Chargers, wary of Jackson's DUI issues and the threat of severe league discipline should he have another off-field incident, have been hesitant to do a long-term deal with the freak-of-nature-type playmaker. But in the meantime, the price of top receivers is soaring, particularly after Larry Fitzgerald's record contract a few weeks back.

Jackson counts over $11 million against the salary cap this season, and to franchise tag him again next year -- which sources close to the receiver believe will be the case given the team's unease about doing a multiyear deal -- would cost the Chargers $13.7 million. So that's $25 million guaranteed for just two seasons of work, and Jackson still would be a potential free agent -- or franchise tagged again at a massive figure -- in 2013.

A year ago, for $25 million guaranteed, the Chargers could have locked Jackson up for five years at $10 million annually. At this point, that figure is creeping closer to $15 million per year. That same guarantee could have secured three or four more years of Jackson's services.

I don't know another NFL executive who believes Chargers general manager A.J. Smith actually would let Jackson get away, but at what cost now? And Jackson is back, my friends. Make no mistake. After a lost 2010 because of his contract holdout and injuries, Jackson's unique blend of size, speed and skill will be on display every weekend in San Diego's prolific offense.

Soliai, in the meantime, was a surprise to be tagged in the first place as an emerging defensive tackle but one lacking a long résumé. While most assumed the tag would just buy toward a longer deal, momentum never built, and the Dolphins rejected numerous proposals from Soliai's agent, David Canter, according to league sources.

So, Soliai now counts for roughly 10 percent of Miami's salary cap, and no one would think for a minute that the Dolphins would tag him again in 2012 to the tune of over $15 million. So, barring a deal in February, Soliai could walk, pocketing a hefty $12.4 million guaranteed from a struggling team in the process.

One would have to assume that if the Dolphins liked Soliai enough to pay him that much money at that position in what very likely could be a rebuilding year, they'd want to secure him to be a part of their future. I can't help but think there was a four-year deal to be done somewhere in the range of $18 million guaranteed (remember, he's already receiving over $12 million).

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.



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