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Browns tender inside linebacker Craig Robertson as exclusive-rights free agent

By Nate Ulrich Published: March 6, 2014

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The Browns have extended a contract tender to inside linebacker Craig Robertson as an exclusive-rights free agent, a team spokesman confirmed.

Exclusive-rights free agents are players with fewer than three accrued seasons. They don’t have negotiating power and must stay with a team if they’re tendered.

So Robertson will return to the Browns for the 2014 season after serving as a full-time starter last year. According to the collective bargaining agreement, his salary for the upcoming season will be $570,000, and he’ll become a restricted free agent next year.

Robertson, 26, started the 14 games in which he appeared last season and missed the other two with a sprained knee. Despite ex-Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s hopes that Robertson would prove to be his “ace in the hole,” he struggled.

ProFootballFocus.com ranked Robertson 52nd out of 55 inside linebackers last season. The website’s ratings placed him 48th against the run and a league-worst 52nd in coverage.

The Browns might try to acquire an upgrade over Robertson, but at the very least, he should provide depth. The team is in dire need of inside linebackers after cutting its other starter, defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson, last week after the two sides couldn’t agree on a restructured contract. Jackson struck a deal today to join the Indianapolis Colts.

Last season, the 6-foot-1, 234-pound Robertson ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 89 tackles, including three sacks, to go along with an interception, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and a recovery.

After Robertson’s career at the University of North Texas ended in 2010, he didn’t join an NFL team until the Browns signed him to their practice squad for the final two weeks of the 2011 season. In 2012, he started three games and received ample playing time in sub packages before becoming a regular in the starting lineup last year.

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