The Cleveland Browns make the headlines again. How many times have we heard that this year?
The Browns released nine year veteran D’Qwell Jackson two weeks before free agency begins. The 30 year old was due a $4 million roster bonus, along with $2.6 million as a base salary. However. this was not a move to clear cap space, since they are one of the top teams with room at $51.2 miilon.
It is bitter sweet for some Browns fans, as Jackson was released due to not being able to reach an agreement, on a restructured contract. Jackson stated how much he appreciated the organization, along with all the fans that supported him over the years. However, at this point in his career, and after going through four different regimes, he wants to go somewhere with stability.
The Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans are two of the teams that are already interested in him. He led the team in tackles with 141, along with a sack an an interception. This is his third year leading the Browns in total tackles, however, the numbers could be deceiving.
Most teams in the NFL have a middle/inside linebacker that attacks the line of scrimmage when it comes to the run, but Jackson has struggled with that for years. He is caught tackling a lot of backs and receivers five yards down the field after they have already gotten past him; he is also very slow from sideline to sideline. During some games, slower backs would cut the ball to the sideline and Jackson would be right behind them, instead of getting a better angle and making the play.
However, one of things he has always been good in is pass coverage. He accounts for a lot of tipped passes and interception possibilities when it comes to covering tight ends, along with some receivers and backs. He just never had the side to side or natural speed to cover them in man coverage. He always had to be in the right spot at the right time, which was usually in zone.
Jackson also only has 11.5 career sacks. Compared to some of the top middle linebackers over five years, that is not a very good figure; it equals out to only half a sack a year, compared to almost 1.5 sacks a game by some backers. It shows that he does not get after the quarterback, and that does not help the team.
Jackson was also very injury prone, and he has missed 26 games throughout his nine year career. However, since 2009 after only playing in six games, he hasn’t missed any. Most fans overrate players and magnify their contributions and talent, when really it is only microscopic.
There are better middle/inside linebackers that are available than Jackson — Dan Connor, Desmond Bishop, Jon Beason, Jonathan Vilma and Daryl Smith are just a few. They might not be great, but they have produced and have been less injury prone than Jackson has been. There are also some good middle/inside backers in this year’s draft — C.J. Mosley out of Alabama and Max Bullough out of Michigan State are some of the top ones.
Craig Roberston, Tank Carder and Darius Eubanks are the only three middle/inside linebackers on the current roster, so the position will definitely be addressed. No doubt the veteran leadership of Jackson will be missed, but as in any sport, it is just a business. Joe Thomas and Joe Haden will likely take on the leadership responsibilities.
It is always hard when the staple of a team is released or traded, but the Browns will move on, and hopefully success will come along with it.