SEATTLE, WA - Ramping up preparations for his eighth NFL season, Gabe Jackson had heard all of the rumors. With two years left on his contract and the Raiders in desperate need of cap space, he understood there was a realistic possibility he would be changing teams for the first time in his career.
On March 3, former ESPN reporter Josina Anderson indicated Las Vegas would outright release Jackson, allowing the long-time starter to hit the market for the first time. But contrary to the initial report, he remained on the roster and the franchise shifted course with a last-gasp attempt to shop him for a draft pick, keeping his future in limbo.
Through it all, Jackson stayed even-keeled and tried not to let the noise get to him. Understanding the league remains a business first and foremost, he stayed ready for whatever was coming next.
Finally, after weeks of uncertainty, rumors evolved into action on March 17, as Jackson was dealt to the Seahawks in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick. From the player's perspective, he couldn't have found a better landing spot after tense contract negotiations went awry with his former team.
"You hear rumors every offseason, sometimes during the season," Jackson told reporters in his introductory press conference. "You don't know how much truth there is behind it, but all I know is I'm excited to join the 12s and meet my other brothers."
Since the trade became official on March 21, Jackson has been in contact with several of his new teammates. Most notably, he's spoken with quarterback Russell Wilson, who drummed up speculation about his own future when he publicly commented on his frustrations about being "hit too much" and his agent Mark Rodgers revealed a list of four teams he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for if necessary.
But after weeks of incessant trade chatter, Seattle's acquisition of Jackson along with several other moves in free agency seem to have pleased Wilson. While the veteran guard joked that he wasn't sure if Wilson was as "excited as me," he's looking forward to the opportunity to protect and work with the seven-time Pro Bowler.
Along with reaching out to his new quarterback, Jackson has also been proactive connecting with several other members of the Seahawks offensive line, including tackle Duane Brown and guard Damien Lewis. When asked if he believes the group will be under the microscope given Wilson's prior comments, he downplayed the idea, indicating he believes the unit can be one of the best in the league.
"This is a great group of offensive linemen," Jackson commented. "I've watched them play and I'm just excited to play with 'em because I think we can be great."
Though he has not been told which position he will play for Seattle yet, Jackson offers prior starting experience at both guard spots for his new team. After being drafted in the third round out of Mississippi State in 2014, he opened his career as a starter at left guard during his first two seasons and then transitioned to the right side where he has played since 2016.
Describing himself as "tough as nails" to characterize his playing style, the 335-pound Jackson also started in at least 15 regular season games in four of those seasons, including starting every game in a bounce-back 2020 campaign for the Raiders, proving himself to be quite durable in the trenches.
Happy for a fresh start and feeling like a rookie again following the trade, Jackson doesn't have a preference for where he plays. Ultimately, he's all about winning and after only playing in one playoff game in his career to this point, he's more than happy to line up and go to work wherever the Seahawks need him.
"You always have to get used to whatever side you're on, it's a switch-up of course," Jackson remarked. "Your body adjusts and [you have to] learn ways of movement, but it's doable. Whatever the team wants me to do, whatever the coach wants me to do, I'm for it."
If there's another reason why Jackson is excited to be in Seattle with a perennial contender protecting one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, what he deemed "a little extension" puts a cherry on top.
Per Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest, Jackson received a new three-year extension worth $22.575 million following the trade with an additional $7 million in guarantees, locking him up through the 2023 season. It's the type of substantial investment that could go a long way towards mending the relationship between Wilson and the organization long-term.
With a new contract in tow and a chance to play in front of one of the best fan bases in the NFL, Jackson can't wait to take the field for the first time this summer. Grateful for a new beginning, he's ready to do his part as the Seahawks make another push for an NFC West title and a return to the Super Bowl.