Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 2/27/12
The latest re-rebuilding of the Cleveland Browns is off to a good start. With Monday's signing of middle linebacker and team leader D'Qwell Jackson to a contract extension, the Browns are one-for-one in accomplishing offseason goals in 2012 and still have both salary cap room and the ability to use their franchise tag if they so choose. "Signing D'Qwell was the number one priority for us this offseason," Browns president Mike Holmgren said. Jackson made it such a high priority with his play in 2011, when he was one of the NFL's leading tacklers and made a bunch of splash plays for a defense that made strides but still spent too much time on the field. Jackson had 3.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries and an interception. He was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate and finished second in voting for the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award. It's fair to wonder if the team truly prioritized signing Jackson over fixing an anemic offense in this offseason period, but it has to start somewhere. Any offseason plan starts with a budget and a checklist and multiple plans when it comes to free agency, and the Browns can now continue to operate under their own Plan A. Getting Jackson locked up means they can franchise kicker Phil Dawson for the second straight year or, possibly but less likely, use the tag on running back Peyton Hillis. There's still no clear indication if the Browns can work something out with Dawson, but losing his services because they had to franchise Jackson would have been a big blow. The free-agent market opens March 13. The window to announce franchise tags opened last week. Any window of success for a team that's won 18 games over the last four years won't truly open until the offense gets fixed, but the Browns have wanted to lock up their own good players as a a big part of eventually climbing out of the basement of the AFC North, which is arguably the strongest division in the NFL but one that sees its two longtime bullies, the Steelers and Ravens, facing issues with aging and their own contractual uncertainties. Jackson had played in just six games over the two previous seasons with two separate pectoral injuries. His play in 2011 showed not only how much he was missed during his absences but that he's best in the 4-3 defense. The Browns had played exclusively a base 3-4 defense since he was drafted in 2006. The Browns got solid play from their big and gifted young defensive tackles in front of Jackson, Ahytba Rubin and 2011 first-rounder Phil Taylor. Rubin signed a long-term extension last season, so the foundation for a strong middle is in place. The Browns need to be much better against the run and still have holes to fill; on the defensive side of the ball they need a defensive end, an outside linebacker and pass rushers in general, and the secondary could use an upgrade in speed and depth. But the Browns' moves over the last 16 months indicated that their free agency money was going to be spent on keeping than their own players much more than it would be spent on bringing players in, and in keeping Jackson -- at an expensive but reasonable reported rate of 42 million over five years -- they've kept a good one. "I know a lot is expected of me, and that's fine," Jackson said. "Now, we have guys that are in the building for the long haul." The Browns still need to collect more assets but should feel good about having talent and leadership in Joe Thomas, Rubin, Jackson and Joshua Cribbs under long-term contracts. They have draft assets with two first-round picks and a high second-rounder, giving them the flexibility to explore trade possibilities and add instant-impact players -- maybe both. There are still plenty of questions to answer and plenty of holes to fill. The Browns are miles from relevance in their own division, let alone the league. But they're sticking to their plan and are able to move forward knowing their defensive leader will be back. Jackson is the kind of guy you can win with. If the Browns can keep building around him, this could prove to be a move that's looked back upon as a part of the team finally finding and sticking with a winning plan.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Logan Morrison curses out umpire CB Bucknor mid at-bat

Raptors jab Bucks on Twitter after Game 4 victory

Report: NBA GMs not hesitant to draft Lonzo Ball due to father LaVar

DeShone Kizer changes course, stands by Tom Brady-Cam Newton quote

Nick Saban doesn't offer much praise of team for 'adequate' spring game

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Dennis Schroder admits Mike Budenholzer wants him to avoid trash talk

WATCH: Miguel Sano throws punch as benches clear in Twins-Tigers game

Glen Coffee making NFL comeback after four years in Army, seven years away from game

Fan wears Clemson championship gear to Alabama spring game

NBA reportedly investigating incident involving Patrick Beverley, Thunder fan

Blake Griffin out for the season with toe injury; how screwed are the Clippers?

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Best of Yardbarker: David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won't go down quietly

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

25 times Mother Nature disrupted sports

In some ways, Dan Rooney was just another NFL owner

Box Score 4/20: When Westbrook isn't enough

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The '♫Happy Birthday Simpsons. Simpsons, it's your birthday♫' quiz

White House championship visits over the years

Biggest needs in the draft for every NFL team

The 'Baseball has been very, very good to its players' quiz

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

In some ways, Dan Rooney was just another NFL owner

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The '♫Happy Birthday Simpsons. Simpsons, it's your birthday♫' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: David Fizdale calls B.S.

Kris Bryant can become the next Derek Jeter — and more

The 'Baseball has been very, very good to its players' quiz

NHL youth movement: How the 2016-17 rookie class fared

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker