Right up until it was reported Malik Jackson was signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bears were considered a favorite to sign the former Bronco. But the Bears were right. At $15 million person for the man widely regarded as the top free agent on the market, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.
Don’t get me wrong, Jackson is among the very best in the league at what he does. Turn on the AFC Championship Game and you’ll see why he got paid. So much of the focus was on Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware but the Patriots felt the need to double Jackson on nearly every passing play. When they didn’t, he pushed the guard back into Brady. It was a dominating performance.
But, as good as Jackson is at what he does, what he does isn’t worth taking up that much salary cap space.
When Ryan Pace was asked about how the Bears third down defense could improve he said they needed to add more playmakers and improve their pass-rush. While Jackson would help in both departments, his help isn’t worth $15 million per season, when similar players made two-thirds of that. That kind of money should go to the players who force the action.
Jackson is immovable against the run and stopping the run is still important, but it isn’t exactly a unique skill. He can get good push against the pass, but he rarely did so quickly and wasn’t the first guy to the quarterback most of the time.
I started to sour on Jackson earlier this week when I went back and watched his game against the Packers. The Broncos recorded a blowout win and held Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards, but Jackson was a pretty small part of that.
While the Patriots and Panthers were forced to give Jackson extra attention, the Packers weren’t. They blocked him with one guy almost exclusively and kept him at bay. It didn’t matter which guard he went against, he was stone-walled. He managed two tackles, one for a loss and batted a pass. In the same game, Derek Wolfe had seven tackles, Sylvester Williams had three and backup Antonio Smith got a sack.
The Packers have a good offensive line, especially inside, and Jackson maybe just didn’t have a good game. Then I watched him against the Vikings and, again, he was hard to find. I have also re-watched the Bears game against the Broncos, a game in which Jackson did not have a tackle.
It’s not fair to suggest that two bad games against non-conference opponents means Jackson wouldn’t produce against those teams if the Bears signed him. But it’s worth questioning. If that question exists, paying $15 million per season for a player simply isn’t an option.
Will the Bears be able to find a better player than Jackson this offseason?
Defensive line is regarded as the deepest position in this year’s draft but that position might actually be overrated. While there are many talented players available there might not be a star.
And while there isn’t another Jackson available in free agency, the Bears may be able to sign Danny Trevathan AND rumored target Akiem Hicks for what it would’ve cost to bring in Jackson. Doing so will also give them more flexibility in the draft.
I’m sure Jackson will be a fine player for the Jags, but he’d have to completely change his game to warrant that kind of payday.