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Chargers not ruling out Vincent Jackson, yet

Buffalo Bills vs San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 11: Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a catch against the Buffalo Bills during their NFL Game on December 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

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It has widely been reported that the Chargers won’t use the franchise tag on receiver Vincent Jackson for a second straight year. And for good reason.

Jackson made $11.424 million via the franchise tag in 2011. Under the CBA, he’s entitled to a 20-percent raise if the Chargers use it again. And that equates to $13.7 million for 2012.

Or, in other words, 11 percent of the unadjusted salary cap for the coming season. For one player.

On Thursday, G.M. A.J. Smith didn’t rule out the possibility of applying the tag. “We have the ability to franchise him although that figure is high,” Smith told Alex Marvez and Bill Polian of SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I don’t particularly like the option because we have different plans and that’s a big [cap] hit. But we’d love to have him back.”

It ordinarily would make sense for a team to use the threat of the franchise tag when talking about a long-term deal with a player. But Jackson’s expected pay under the franchise tender provides a very high starting point for talks. With $13.7 million due under the tag this year and the number rising to 144 percent of his 2012 pay if the Chargers tag him for a third time in 2013, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Jackson’s camp to expect more than $30 million over the first two years of a multi-season contract.

And so it’s not surprising that, as Jason La Canfora of reports, “[p]eople close to Jackson” (i.e., his agents) believe that the tag is coming. They want the tag. No one else will pay Jackson $13.7 million in 2012, especially with so many receivers on the open market.

Jackson is already 29, and even though Smith told Marvez and Polian that the team no longer is concerned about Jackson’s history of off-field issues, Jackson still has a history of off-field issues, which could affect his value in the eyes of other teams, especially if those other teams are considering free-agent receivers who don’t have a history of off-field issues.

And so “people close to Jackson” likely suspect that the Chargers ultimately will pay Jackson more than any other team. Especially if the Chargers can be coaxed into using the franchise tag on him again.