Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC South [Print without images]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Jackson's contract would revert to Bucs

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Although his contract originally was supposed to expire at the end of last season, suspended safety Tanard Jackson’s final year of his rookie deal would toll over to 2011 if he’s reinstated.

That’s all subject to change as the NFL and its players work on a new collective bargaining agreement that could bring rules changes. It’s also subject to Jackson being reinstated after serving a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Jackson is not eligible to even apply for reinstatement until late September. He participated in the first two games of last season before being suspended, and his contract was frozen at that point.

Under the current rules, Jackson would remain under contract with the Bucs if he is reinstated next season. He was paid only for two games last season and the pro-rated remainder of his $550,000 salary, theoretically, would roll over to next season.

That happened to the Carolina Panthers when defensive back Rashard Anderson was suspended for the 2002 season and another year was added to the ban after he failed to meet requirements for reinstatement. Both times, Anderson’s contract was tolled over, or frozen at the point of his suspension.

That’s where it stands now with Jackson, but this situation could be fluid. A new labor agreement could change the rules and Jackson could end up as a restricted free agent, depending on terms of a new agreement.

But none of that guarantees that Jackson will return to the Buccaneers. Requirements for reinstatement are stringent and commissioner Roger Goodell would make the final decision. Even if Jackson is reinstated, there’s no guarantee the Bucs would choose keep him, even if he does remain under contract.

The team is not allowed to have any contact with Jackson while he’s suspended. The Bucs got some nice play out of young safeties Cody Grimm and Corey Lynch last season and could look for other safety help in the draft or free agency.

This is a situation where the team can’t count on anything when it comes to Jackson. If he is reinstated in September, it could be a nice bonus. But the team already began the process of moving on without him last season, and Jackson could be only one failed test away from a permanent suspension. It’s possible the Bucs could do the same thing with Jackson that the Panthers did with Anderson when he finally was eligible to return.

The moment Anderson was reinstated, the Panthers cut him. They simply didn't want a player they didn't feel they could trust.