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Chargers Reluctant to Franchise Jackson

Sources: Smith "extremely uncomfortable" with tag figure

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson is introduced prior to the start of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Qualcomm Stadium on September 11, 2011 in San Diego, California.

    The Chargers want Vincent Jackson to stay in San Diego.

    To keep him off a competitive open market, a giant number stands in their way.

    It will cost the Chargers nearly $13.7 million to place the franchise tag on the Pro Bowl wide receiver, something the team can do anytime now through March 5. Jackson will otherwise become an unrestricted free agent March 13, allowing him to negotiate and sign with another team.

    The team recently held its annual state-of-the-franchise meetings, and it's been all but decided that Jackson's tag is too rich in an offseason with several needs to address.

    While retaining Jackson is considered a top priority for general manager A.J. Smith, sources said Smith is "extremely uncomfortable" allocating that much money to a one-year guaranteed deal. A tag late in the designation period is not beyond possibility, but ultimately, the chances are said to be "highly unlikely."

    In most years, the Chargers might be able to talk themselves into the pricey figure, which stands at $13.68 million, or 120 percent more than the $11.4 million they paid to tag him in 2011.

    Then again, in most years, the team isn't piecing together an offensive line with up to three new starters while addressing critical areas on defense.

    Left tackle Marcus McNeill has yet to be medically cleared after repeated neck issues, the latest of which ended his 2011 season seven games prematurely. His replacement, Jared Gaither, left a strong impression but will become an unrestricted free agent. Same for veteran center Nick Hardwick.

    Left guard Kris Dielman has been mulling retirement since enduring a season-ending concussion and grand mal seizure. He's spoken with doctors and has the information to make his decision, team sources said. The announcement is expected soon, possibly after the Combine, which runs Wednesday to Feb. 28.

    At worst, the defense demands a partial facelift with another game-changer or two. The unit already has a new coordinator; former linebackers coach John Pagano was promoted to replace Greg Manusky, fired after the season.

    Strong safety will likely carry a new look, too. Steve Gregory and Bob Sanders combined to start 15 games last season, and neither is under contract for 2012. The Chargers plan to add to their pass rush, be it through free agency, the draft, or both.

    Without doubt, the Chargers want Jackson to be part of their long-term future.

    A one-year deal that could compromise that future just may not be the way.