- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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They have a coach who was with him in Cleveland and another who schemed against him for three years. Not many teams will have a better grasp of what linebacker D'Qwell Jackson could bring – and still do – than the Redskins.
Cleveland released the veteran linebacker Wednesday, which, of course, prompted another round of this game: “Are the Redskins interested in ...”
In Jackson’s case, though, he clearly provides something the Redskins need: A veteran presence at inside linebacker who can still play. They already have one defensive coach who knows what Jackson can, and can’t do, in outside linebackers coach Brian Baker. He served as Cleveland’s outside linebacker’s coach a year ago. Also, coach Jay Gruden had to scheme twice a year against Cleveland’s defense for the past three seasons.
I’d be surprised if the Redskins aren’t interested for these reasons (and if they’re not, that’s also telling). We already know they need at least one inside linebacker capable of starting. Seven teams reportedly contacted Jackson’s representatives after news of his release, with a visit set at one of them for Thursday. One Redskins source pointed out, however, that Jackson was not yet on the league’s transactions (that will occur Thursday) so admitting interest would be to admit tampering as well. But, yes, they’ve done their homework on him.
Jackson, who has never made the Pro Bowl but who did lead the AFC in combined tackles three years ago (and the NFL in 2008), was released in part because of a pending $4 million bonus. The two sides attempted to restructure his current deal, but to no avail. If you think a player is still at a certain level, this step would have been accomplished. It’s not as if Cleveland is in dire cap shape and had no choice. But Jackson’s agent, Brian Mackler, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group that the Browns could not commit to him for more than the 2014 season.
Still, in watching a few of his games, it’s not as if Jackson can’t play. I didn’t see missed tackles. I didn’t see botched coverage assignments. I saw a lot of those last season watching the Redskins. But I also didn’t see any game-changing plays (five forced fumbles in his career; eight interceptions). Still, he’d be an upgrade over last year’s linebacking play and would also be able to provide leadership. The latter can’t be underestimated with the loss of London Fletcher, especially for a defense that will undergo numerous personnel changes. Even if Perry Riley is re-signed, which is not a lock, he’s not a leader.
But would Jackson want to come to Washington (he played at the University of Maryland)? Jackson said he’s looking for something the Redskins haven’t had in years: stability.
“I'm willing to go to 31 other teams at this point,'' Jackson told the Northeast Ohio Media Group. "Obviously I'm looking for a place that has some type of stability, some place that a guy that's been around and you know he's not going to be out in two years. I don't have a crystal ball or anything but ideally that's going to probably have a lot of weight in determining my decision in where I go.''
Chances are Jackson will have better options than Washington. Keep in mind that he has played in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 and might be better suited to the former. Mackler called Jackson one of the most respected people in the business that he’s come across in his 24 years involved in the NFL.
Here’s another quote from Jackson: “Losing year after year, it sucks.”
He lost double-digit games in each of the past six seasons and has played for one winning team. The Redskins have lost double-digit games in three of the past four seasons and have had one winning team since 2007. Despite players and coaches proclaiming the Redskins are closer to a 10-win team than a 13-loss team, they did indeed lose 13 games last year. And it’s tough to claim you’re closer to a 10-win team when you are replacing at least half of your defense. Jackson understands this, so if he comes here it’ll be because he received the best offer not necessarily because it’s the best situation. Which, of course, sums up why most free agents go anywhere.