What’s next for D’Qwell Jackson?
A productive starter at middle/inside linebacker for the Browns since entering the NFL in 2006, the 29-year-old Jackson figures to draw interest from other teams after his release from Cleveland on Wednesday.
Let’s take a moment to weigh the factors working in Jackson’s favor — as well as those potentially working against him — as he enters free agency. Also, let’s list a handful of logical potential suitors for the veteran linebacker:
Factors working in Jackson’s favor: He’s played all 16 games in the last three seasons, recording at least 118 tackles in all three campaigns. He has experience in 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. Moreover, he has experience adjusting to new schemes and coaches, given all the turnover he endured in Cleveland, where he played for four different head coaches. What’s more, Cleveland’s consistent organizational churn could help him in free agency, given all of the former Browns staffers working for other clubs. A team captain in Cleveland, Jackson should quickly fit into any defense and locker room he enters.
Factors working against Jackson: He will be 30 in September. Listed at 6-foot and 240 pounds, he could be a touch small for some teams’ tastes. He missed 10 games in 2009 and all of 2010 with pectoral injuries. Teams could be apt to look at younger free agents or to tap into a rich draft class to fill their MLB/ILB needs.
Potential suitors for Jackson: Here’s some preliminary dot connecting regarding potential landing spots for Jackson. A club’s need at inside/middle linebacker, as well as any potential connections Jackson may have with other clubs, were considered:
The top three
1. Denver Broncos. Middle linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Paris Lenon are unrestricted free agents. Broncos director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was the Browns’ G.M. before joining Denver and was part of the Cleveland front office that signed Jackson to his contract extension two years ago. Frankly, this is a fit that makes a lot of sense: Jackson would finally get to play for a winner, and he likely would have a key backer in Heckert.
2. Tennessee Titans. The Browns’ defensive coordinator in 2013, Ray Horton, now holds the same job in Tennessee. The Titans have a need at inside linebacker.
3. Chicago Bears. They could stand to add a middle linebacker. Jackson could help solidify the position in the short term, allowing Chicago to address other positions on the defense.
Other teams considered
In New Orleans, Jackson would be reunited with Rob Ryan, the Browns’ defensive coordinator from 2009-2010.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has something of a need in the middle. The same could be said for Houston (where he would work again with former Browns head coach Romeo Crennel), New England, Baltimore, Washington and Oakland.
Longer shots would be San Francisco and Philadelphia. Former Browns head coach Eric Mangini is now the 49ers’ tight ends coach, while former Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis is the Eagles’ defensive coordinator.