General manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid desperately need our opinion, so we're going to help them out over the next couple of weeks. We'll take a look at the 10 top prospective Kansas City Chiefs free agents, one each day, and examine the reasons for re-signing them and those for letting them loose on the open market. Then we'll look at how the situation should play out. We'll start with the first player drafted by former general manager Scott Pioli.
Five NFL seasons, five with the Chiefs. Will be 28 when next season begins.
Chiefs career: Jackson was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft but has never played up to that standard. Jackson was drafted to fill a need when the Chiefs required some defensive ends to play in what was their new 3-4 defense. Jackson's first three seasons were largely a waste. He started in two of them mainly because the Chiefs were trying to justify the pick and they had no one better. Jackson's play picked up in 2012 and again last season to the point where on running downs Jackson was a solid player. He also had a career-high four sacks.
Argument for keeping Jackson: He will never be a star but Jackson last season showed he can be a productive player. He has been for the most part durable, missing six games in five seasons. It seems a shame to give up on him just as he seems to be finding his game. He's heading into the prime seasons of his career.
Argument for letting Jackson go: Jackson played mainly on running downs, or less than half of the defensive snaps last season. Despite his career-high in sacks, he never developed as a pass-rusher to the point the Chiefs hoped. They have a part-time defensive end in Mike DeVito, who played on running downs on the other side of the line from Jackson. The Chiefs have an available replacement in Allen Bailey, who has shown more pass-rush skills than Jackson.
What should happen: The Chiefs shouldn't give Jackson a big contract. They did that once out of necessity when he was picked near the top of the draft and he's hogged a disproportionate amount of their salary cap ever since. He's worth bringing back at the right price but not at a cost they're not comfortable with. If he leaves, the Chiefs can either play Bailey or a draft pick and perhaps get as much production at a more reasonable price.