Bidding Adieu to D’Qwell Jackson:
In an unsurprising transaction, the Cleveland Browns released the longest tenured member on their roster. Back in 2006, then general manager Phil Savage chose the former University of Maryland athlete in the second round. Since that time, D’Qwell Jackson has seen highs and lows (mostly lows), several overhauls of the front office, and ample roster turnover. As we remember his time with the franchise, going from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 and back to the 3-4; there are a few thoughts that surround this transaction.
– Respect and admiration for the athlete is warranted:
As mentioned through multiple media outlets, Jackson has never been outspoken in a negative manner. The linebacker worked hard every day, refrained from any contact disputes, and never fired shots at the team or front office (especially during stretches of poor play). Many players, coaches, general managers, and even members of the media got along with the linebacker. He always accepted to be interviewed, no matter how dire the state of the franchise was. For that, I give Jackson a tremendous amount of credit and hold him in high regards – I wish him nothing but success going forward.
– Understanding the move, from the team’s perspective:
Despite the franchise being around fifty million dollars under the salary cap for the 2014 season, the Browns should remain wise when allocating salaries to their players. The release of Jackson saved the team over four million dollars against the cap (and keeping Jackson simply was not worth it); the Browns now can use that money in other areas of need or to re-sign impending free agents. I believe Ray Farmer had previously set his priorities concerning free agency and what to do with several players’ contracts. He talked to Jackson about his huge salary bonus and tried to restructure the contract – since the two sides couldn’t agree, it was time for both to move on.
– Commend Ray Farmer for timing of the release:
By being let go before the free agency period began, the former linebacker of the Browns can now take his time and (basically) pick his spot where to finish his career. Jackson’s former franchise could have waited a day before he was due his roster bonus until they let him go, but fortunately that did not occur. Doing things like this could go a long way in acquiring/signing free agents down the road – if the Browns’ general manager can maintain a good rapport with players, word will quickly spread through the league.
– Going forward with this defense:
The captain of the 2013 defense is no longer on the Cleveland Browns, and now there will be a new guy to head up the unit. Luckily there are a myriad of options, including Joe Haden (who is already the senior member of the secondary and a fiery athlete), Ahtyba Rubin (who’s status with the team is in question as he is due a large salary), Phil Taylor (a recent first round draft pick from 2011), or Paul Kruger (a 2013 free agent acquisition who is a Super Bowl champion). There’s no doubt Jackson’s leadership on and off the field will be missed, but as the next man up will fill this newly created role. I’m excited to see what Pettine will do now with the defense, as he attempts to improve it with younger and faster guys.
– Not as difficult to fill the void as some perceive:
Would Jackson have helped the defense this upcoming season? Absolutely, but there are many different factors in how general managers value football players. I believe a rookie can produce tremendously at inside linebacker (much like Kiko Alonso did last year with Pettine in Buffalo) – he is cheaper and it’s not like Jackson is coming off several All-Pro seasons. Obviously there will be a fair amount of pressure on the replacement to excel immediately – but when is that not the case in the NFL? Should the Browns select C.J. Mosley, Chris Borland, or Christian Jones (to name a few) in the Draft – expect them to be D’Qwell’s successor on opening day.
Conclusion: D’Qwell Jackson was a solid professional athlete who overcame much in his career; including tears to both his pectorals in consecutive years. I want the best for him, but the Cleveland Browns will soldier on and this was a smart decision made by Ray Farmer.