While Broncos Country holds its collective breath on the team's looming decision to either franchise tag, extend, or let All-Pro safety Justin Simmons walk in free agency, his partner's contract is one that GM George Paton must also attend to.
The Denver Broncos have until March 16 to exercise the $1.5 million option guarantee on Kareem Jackson’s $10 million salary in 2021. On Tuesday, 104.3 The FAN’s John Clayton joined Stokley and Zach where he was asked about Jackson who’s making top-10 money at his position and is in the final year of his deal.
“My feeling is that he’s going to be a cap casualty,” Clayton told hosts Brandon Stokley and Zach Bye. “What it still comes down to, and this goes back to Von Miller, can you keep both at the high numbers? If you’re going to be putting money into one safety in a tight cap, it’s going to be tough to get the second one in there.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame writer doubled down on his position, saying, “I’d say right now that the odds of Jackson staying aren’t very good.”
If Jackson is an elite defensive back, leader, and fan-favorite, why in the world would the Broncos consider moving on from him this year? The answer: timing and circumstance.
Jackson will turn 33 years old in April and with the NFL salary cap dropping to a projected floor of $180M, Denver could be hesitant to paying the 12th-year pro under his current contract, especially when Simmons will most likely earn at least $13.73M under a second franchise tag, or even more if he agrees to an extension with the Broncos.
Jackson signed a three-year, $33M deal with Denver in 2019 and has since started 29 games for the Broncos after originally being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2010. The former Alabama first-rounder was brought to the Mile High City because of his versatility as he can play cornerback in addition to safety.
But make no mistake about it, the safety position is where Jackson has left a hard-hitting impression. In 2019, Jackson played in 13 games for Denver, logging 71 tackles (48 solo), 10 passes defended, four tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and a forced fumble, which resulted in the first touchdown of his career against his former team.
In fact, the Broncos' Week 14 matchup in Houston that year resulted in Jackson earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with 11 tackles and one interception in addition to the scoop-and-score fumble recovery. Jackson’s first year as a Bronco was punctuated by a two-game DUI suspension.
However, he’s been described as a natural leader in the locker room and his charismatic personality was even featured on the team website in a weekly show called KJack TV. The behind-the-scenes interviews conducted by Jackson often include fan-based questions to current teammates and quickly became an online sensation with fans and the Denver media.
In 2020, Jackson returned to his snot-rattling form and in tandem with Simmons, was one-half of arguably the best safety duo in the league. In his second year playing Vic Fangio’s defense, Jackson started all 16 games and was credited with 89 tackles (67 solo), four passes defended, one tackle for a loss, two fumble recoveries, and one interception.
Just last month, Jackson was "working on" recruiting disgruntled Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson (his former teammate) to waive his no-trade clause in hopes of forcing a trade to Denver. Wouldn’t it make sense then for Denver to keep Jackson in hopes of luring his three-time Pro Bowl buddy to the Broncos?
How big of a factor is Jackson, in the Broncos' eyes, as a potential recruiter for Watson? Clayton was asked if Paton would be willing to ride with Jackson so that the Broncos could remain in the Watson sweepstakes.
“Whether Kareem Jackson is here or not that’s not going to play into whether Watson comes here," Clayton told The FAN. "Remember, it’s a matter of who can work out the trade with Houston. As opposed to where Watson wants to go. He’ll want to go to Denver. He’ll want to go to Carolina. He wants to be out of Houston. Either place is fine, but the recruiting part, isn’t part of it.”
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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