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Friday, February 28, 2014
Jackson could be guinea pig for higher cap

By Ben Goessling

MINNEAPOLIS -- We discussed on Thursday morning why the Minnesota Vikings might want to kick the tires on former Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who was cut by the team this week, and it appears they could do just that. CBS Sports reported on Thursday afternoon that the Vikings have inquired about bringing in Jackson for a visit next week.

Jackson
As the 30-year-old linebacker makes his visits, which could reportedly include as many as five interested teams, we could also get an early preview of how teams will operate under the new salary cap. They have to be under the cap by the start of the new league year on March 11, but as ESPN's John Clayton reported last week, the 2014 cap figure is expected to rise by $9 million to hit $132 million next season. That would leave the Vikings, and dozens of other teams, flush with cash headed into free agency.

Jackson is the kind of veteran player who might typically find an uneven market; he's been productive and a class act in Cleveland, but he'll be 31 in September and is known more for being dependable than dynamic. If the heavy interest in him translates into a bigger deal than we've seen for similar players in the past, it could be a sign of things to come once the market opens for non-released players next week.

There could be plenty of teams who will choose not to spend all of their extra money, and the Vikings of recent vintage haven't made a habit of dishing out big contracts to players over 30 (Greg Jennings notwithstanding). But if deals are structured properly, the larger cap could leave teams more margin for error, and reward the pay-as-you-go philosophy used by teams like the Vikings, who could stuff more cash into the first year of the deal through a guaranteed base salary rather than risking a later cap charge through a big signing bonus. Jackson won't break anybody's bank, but he could provide an early indicator of how kindly the market will treat veteran players now that the cap is expected to spike.