Most of the Denver Broncos' offseason buzz thus far has centered around the quarterback position, and its associated rumors, as well as Von Miller and impending free agent Justin Simmons. One name that has flown under the radar somewhat is veteran safety Kareem Jackson.
The second half of what has been a very potent safety duo for Vic Fangio the past two years, Jackson enters the final season of his three-year, $33 million contract he signed back in 2019. Only this time, Jackson's 2021 contract is held in the form of a team option.
What that means is that the Broncos hold the prerogative of either exercising Jackson's option, which would keep him in the Orange and Blue in 2021 at a $10M base salary, or declining it. If new GM George Paton were to opt for the latter, Jackson would immediately hit the open waters of unrestricted free agency where he would be able to negotiate and sign with any team of choice.
The fly in the ointment of Jackson finishing out his three-year deal? His soon-to-be 33 years of age and the fact that the Broncos are going to have to pony up a minimum of $13-plus million to keep Simmons in Denver, and that's just on the franchise tag. A multi-year deal at the top of the market could cost the Broncos upwards of $15-plus million for Simmons.
That being said, how does Paton view the Jackson situation? And further, is the Jackson option somehow tied to or contingent on Simmons' situation?
“I think they are independent of each other," Paton said Thursday during his press conference at Dove Valley. "I’ve spoken with Kareem and I’ve spoken with his agent Jason Chayut. We have to work through some things, but we’ve had positive conversations."
There can only be one thing to work through; money. And whether Jackson is willing to take less and/or restructure his last year so as to lessen the cap hit and perhaps convert much of his salary into incentives.
The takeaway, however, was clear. Paton wants Jackson back.
"We would like Kareem back," Paton said. "He’s a good football player and a good leader. We’ll see if we can do that.”
Fangio will no doubt be campaigning to keep Jackson and find a way to fit him under the Broncos' salary cap. Jackson has been a quintessential fit in Fangio's scheme and in tandem with Simmons, the duo has been top-10 among safeties.
The Broncos currently have the fifth-most salary-cap space in the NFL at $43,758,673. That number could swell considerably if talks with Miller were to fall through. Even at a salary cap estimated to drop to around $180M this year, having $43.7M available gives Paton quite the advantage in the free-agency pool.
If the Broncos want to fit Jackson in, they can. Where there's a will, there's a way. NFL salary-cap voodoo is just that. It's fuzzy math.
It's a more complex situation than it might appear at first glance, mainly due to the unresolved situations of Miller, Justin, and Shelby Harris. Including Jackson, Paton expressed a desire to retain all four of those lynchpin defenders.
Time will tell if Jackson sticks around but fans will have an answer soon enough as the new league year opens on March 17, less than two weeks away.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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