The first notable move of the offseason for the Minnesota Vikings came when they released linebacker Erin Henderson earlier this month. He had a productive 2013 season, with 112 total tackles (second on team), four sacks and two interceptions, but two DUI arrests in basically a six-week span made the move to release him inevitable.
Releasing Henderson further thins an already talent-poor group of linebackers for Minnesota, so adding some help at the position is a virtual necessity. Could a recently released veteran be a fit?
After reported attempts to agree to a restructuring of his contract, D’Qwell Jackson was released by the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday. He has spent his entire career with the Browns since being drafted by them in 2006 (second round-34th overall, and he led the team in tackles in each of the last three seasons along with 8.5 sacks over that span. Jackson was due a $4 million roster bonus on March 16, and the Browns will save over $5 million in salary cap space by releasing him.
Jackson was graded poorly as a run defender by Pro Football Focus last season, ranking 42nd out of 55 qualified inside linebackers according to that site’s metrics, but he has experience in 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes and that versatility should widen the pool of potential suitors.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported soon after Jackson’s release that seven teams reached out to him, and the Tennessee Titans are a likely suitor with former Browns’ defensive coordinator Ray Horton serving in the same capacity there now. Other interested teams would surely like to line up a visit with Jackson, but it’s worth wondering if his first and only visit will be in Nashville.
New Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer may be fairly familiar with Jackson, based on seeing him twice a year in the AFC North during his time as defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, so that can only help the team’s evaluation of him as a potential fit. I personally like Jackson as a possible replacement for Henderson at middle linebacker, assuming his financial demands are not exorbitant, but time will tell if the Vikings feel the same way.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.