The Cleveland Browns cut veteran linebacker and locker room leader D’Qwell Jackson due to his high price tag, and he immediately received significant interest on the free agent market. The Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts showed the most interest in him, and the Colts and Broncos always stood out as the most likely landing spots for a 31-year-old player who spent his entire career with the Browns. Jackson is looking for the ring, and the Broncos and Colts were the suitors with the best chances of delivering that to him.
Always expected to make his decision by the end of the week, Jackson’s decision to sign with the Colts definitely isn’t a surprising one given the financial details of the contract. Not only will the declining player be in Indianapolis for four years, but he’ll also make $22 million over those years with half of his overall contract being guaranteed. That’s a large sum of money for a player who fits the 4-3 scheme better than the 3-4.
That said, Jackson is an upgrade over Pat Angerer, who will hit the free agent market this offseason. Angerer isn’t a terrible player, but he’s a well below-average run defender and has inflated tackle statistics (kind of like Jackson). The writing was on the wall for Angerer, as the Colts desperately wanted to upgrade at the linebacker position and clearly didn’t want to keep him around for another season or two.
With 156, 118, and 139 tackles in his last three seasons, there’s no doubt that Jackson is a productive player, and the Colts are getting better overall with this move. They needed to beef up on defense, and Angerer simply wasn’t going to cut it. But this deal to Jackson could easily end up as one of Ryan Grigson’s worst, because it has all the ingredients of a bust signing. Jackson is old, declining, getting a high amount of guaranteed money, and most of his value is derived from box score stats and leadership. He’s a great character guy to have, but it’s not like the Colts locker room lacks character either. I like the decision to upgrade at linebacker, but I don’t like the amount of money they gave him. Although the Colts have plenty of cap space and snagged him over the Broncos due to that space, I feel like they significantly overpaid here. The $22 million over four seasons makes me wonder if the Colts were locked up with the rival Tennessee Titans in a bidding war, which wouldn’t be a surprise given the Titans massive need for a solid starting linebacker.