It's that time of year when the bossman himself, Colts owner Jim Irsay, begins to break news, and he did this morning with a pretty significant move for the Colts:
We've agreed to terms with a new member of our defense...— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 6, 2014
Welcome to the Colts, D'Qwell!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 6, 2014
"D'Qwell" is former Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who has agreed to terms with the Colts on a deal. According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, it's a pretty significant deal, too.
D'Qwell Jackson has agreed to terms with the Colts. 4yrs $22M with $11M guaranteed. Beats the 2014 guaranteed money he would've had with CLE— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 6, 2014
Jackson visited the Colts earlier this week after also visiting the Broncos, Dolphins, and Titans. Reports said that at least six teams were interested in the 30-year old linebacker cut by the Browns on February 26th. Judging by the size of the contract, it is clear that the Colts knew who they wanted and didn't want to let Jackson get too much further in his tour of teams, no matter where that might have been. So, in typical Ryan Grigson fashion, he paid big money for a free agent. 4-years, $22 million with $11 million guaranteed - that's a pretty big contract.
Here's the thing that we absolutely must consider, however: in free agency, you will almost always overpay for players. Always. But we can't tell whether Grigson really overpaid for Jackson yet until we see him on the field. The Colts wanted Jackson bad enough that they were willing to sign him to a big deal. I know many fans don't trust Grigson based on his track record, but the fact of the matter is that it's impossible to know for sure whether the Colts overpaid or not until we see him on the field. And no matter what, the Colts needed a guy who could operate in space to play inside linebacker alongside Jerrell Freeman. Additionally, Jackson is reunited with former head coach Rob Chudzinski, who is now a special assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano after being fired after only one year on the job in Cleveland.
The 6-0, 240 pound linebacker has started 96 out of 97 games over the past eight seasons (not including the 2010 season, which Jackson missed entirely) with the Browns after being drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft by Cleveland. In his career, he has notched 891 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries, 28 passes defended, and eight picks (1 TD). He has topped 100 tackles in a season six times in his eight seasons, including in 2013, when he led the team with 143 tackles, playing 99.9% of defensive snaps. He also had 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 7 passes defended, and 1 pick. In 7 different games in 2013 he recorded 10 or more tackles, and he ended the season with a current 48-game start streak, dating back to 2011.
In addition to being a tremendous player on the football field, Jackson is also a great leader and influence in the community, which fits what the Colts are trying to do in Indianapolis. It is clear that the Colts are in "win now" mode, as they're investing in a 30-year old linebacker right now and will likely sign a few other free agents, too. That's not a bad mode to be in, and they're especially trying to win by signing free agents now while Andrew Luck isn't costing them too much against the salary cap - which will change soon enough.
General manager Ryan Grigson said of the move in a statement issued by the team this morning:
"We are pleased to announce the signing of inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. He is a team-first guy that has been a very consistent producer on the field. The tempo, energy and determination he plays with are right up there with the best in this league. He brings a welcomed element of experience and natural leadership to our team and we are excited to add him to the strong nucleus of linebackers we currently have on our roster."
I like this move for the Colts. While I do think it's a lot of money to give Jackson, I think he is a player that the Colts needed. He is a better fit in a 4-3 defense than in the Colts 3-4 defense, but I still think he can do a good job at inside linebacker and addresses a need that the Colts had. It's a lot of money to pay him, but don't let that get in the way of the fact that he should be able to help the Colts. There is absolutely no doubt that he is an upgrade at starting inside linebacker over Pat Angerer, who the Colts are going to let walk, but he is a more expensive upgrade than many have thought.
Here's what some others had to say about the move:
I really like Jackson's game a few years ago, but tailed off big time last season. That's not a good sign.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) March 6, 2014
The "Free agents are always overpaid" argument is ok if the player signed has a good amount of upside. That's not D'Qwell.— Andrew Mishler (@andrewmishler) March 6, 2014
Disclaimer: I am no expert on D'Qwell Jackson. But I gotta think if they play to his strengths, plus combo w Freeman, results could be good— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) March 6, 2014