According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns are not expected to use their franchise tag on safety Sean Jones, who is set to hit the free agent market at the end of the month.
Jones had an injury-plagued season and didn’t live up to his outstanding 2007 campaign, but then again, few Browns did. He finished with just 48 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble, compared to the 69 tackle, five-interception season he had the year before.
The Browns must assume that Jones is already returning (he did say back in December that he wants to stay in Cleveland) and therefore don’t want to spend the $6.34 million that comes with tagging a safety. Plus, given his small injury concerns, they no doubt want his yearly figure to be significantly less than $6 million. (After all, his current salary is $2.145 million.)
Generally, players don’t want to be tagged anyway. They prefer to work out long term contracts and avoid the risk that is associated with not having a contract in place after the season. But Cleveland is taking a risk by not placing at least a non-exclusive tag (which would cost them $4.3 mil for one year) on Jones because he could walk at any time. And 26-year old safeties that are assets in run support and decent ball skills don’t fall off trees in the NFL. Safety is one of the most sought after positions in the league and if Jones is allowed to hit the open market, another team might be willing to throw a decent amount of money at him for his services.
The Browns can’t lose this guy. Even after an up and down season, he’s vital to their secondary. We’ll see if their risk pays off and he isn’t tempted to fly the coop.