After tag deadline, Bears could target Malik Jackson

SHARE After tag deadline, Bears could target Malik Jackson

Malik Jackson (97) recovers a fumble for a touchdown during the first half of Super Bowl 50. (AP)

The Broncos gave Von Miller their franchise tag Tuesday, meaning defensive end Malik Jackson didn’t get one.

The latter is more relevant to the Bears entering the free agency period, which begins with Monday’s launch of a three-day negotiation window.

They were never landing Miller, the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Jackson, though, is worth consideration when he hits the open market.

His familiarity with Bears head coach John Fox and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers — Jackson’s position coach in Denver — would seemingly ease the transition to a team in need of a stout 3-4 defensive end. Or two.

The Bears have six ends on their current roster; Will Sutton played 13 games last season, while the other five combined to appear in only eight contests. Jarvis Jenkins and Mitch Unrein, the Bears’ best two ends last season, will be unrestricted free agents next week.

Signing Jackson, though, would come at a steep price.

He’s entering his age-26 season after recording 5 ½ sacks and seven pass deflections in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Despite a bumper crop of defensive linemen available in the draft, Jackson —who started regularly for the first time last season — reportedly wanted an average of $13-$15 million per year from the Broncos.

That could prove too rich for the Bears’ blood, particularly after GM Ryan Pace warned against the dangers of the Bears over-spending regardless of their cap space abundance.

If anyone knows what to expect from Jackson, though, it’s Fox, who helped develop him from a fifth-round pick in 2012.

During Super Bowl week, Jackson admitted it was “cool to be able to have coaches that have branched out to do their own thing and are doing great things” — Fox, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio and new Dolphins boss Adam Gase, all who coached him in Denver.

Teammate Danny Trevathan, another pending free agent, agreed, crediting Fox for his growth.

“I’m sure we’ll end up talking,” the inside linebacker said of Fox and his free agency.

The Broncos could have tagged Jackson had they convinced Miller to sign a long-term deal before Tuesday.

The deadline gave Bears players to cross off their list. Bills tackle Cordy Glenn, Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, Chiefs safety Eric Berry and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman were among the nine players given non-exclusive franchise tags, all but guaranteeing their return to their teams next season.

Teams can only lure those players away by outbidding their original club and then giving them two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Choosing between cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins, the Rams decided to give a non-exclusive tag to the former, sending Jenkins to the open market.

Miller received the exclusive franchise tag, meaning he can negotiate only with the Broncos. Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon received a transition tag. He can sign with an outside team without it having to compensate Miami, which retains the right to match.

The Bears gave receiver Alshon Jeffery a non-exclusive tag Monday.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley


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