In a move that seemed impossible six months ago, but expected in recent weeks, the Chargers did their due diligence by placing the franchise tag on Jackson. Assuming the tag will be part of the next labor agreement, this move virtually assures Jackson will remain with the Chargers in 2011.
The Chargers could still trade Jackson, at least in theory, but that would require another team parting with a huge package of draft choices and cash in the form of a long-term deal. San Diego couldn't get a first-rounder for Jackson last season, so a trade seems highly unlikely at this point.
Don't expect Jackson to balk at this decision even though players often aren't pleased to get the franchise tag. Jackson stands to earn more than $10 million in 2011 under the tag. He netted just more than $200,000 last season after paying fines and missing games, so the increase will be welcome.
Jackson will most likely have to wait until 2012 to get the long-term contract he has desired for more than a year. The Chargers have been reluctant to give him such a deal because of off-field issues.
The franchise tag gives Jackson another year to show the team he can stay on the straight and narrow. If he has a big year on the field and a quiet one off it, the Chargers could reward him with a long-term deal, recognizing his tremendous talent and special on-field chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers missed Jackson's combination of size, speed and skill while he held out for more than half of the 2010 season.
Now that Jackson is franchised, the Chargers will have several other free agents to address, including fellow starting receiver Malcom Floyd, running back/returner Darren Sproles, linebacker Stephen Cooper, linebacker Kevin Burnett and safety Eric Weddle.