Wednesday marked the end of an era in Cleveland. The Browns released linebacker D’Qwell Jackson after being with the team for eight seasons. In a press release sent by the team to the media, general manager Ray Farmer indicated that the two sides could not reach an agreement to restructure the veteran’s contract.
“We had positive discussion with D’Qwell and his agent over the last several days, and we came to the mutual agreement to go in different directions.”
The move will save the Browns a $4.1 million roster bonus that Jackson was due to receive on March 15th according to Dan Hanzus of the NFL Network.
So how will the Jackson era be remembered in Cleveland? Will fans remember the leadership and loyalty to the city and team? Maybe he will be remembered as a guy who bounced back from not one but two pectoral injuries.
His former teammates chimed in on twitter and those were their sentiments.
I made some great friends during my time in Cleveland & DQ was right there at the top. Couldn't have asked for a better friend & teammate.— Scott Fujita (@sfujita55) February 26, 2014
A tremendous leader and one of the best teammates I have ever played with. Good luck to @DQ52— John Greco (@johng7779) February 26, 2014
Perhaps Jackson will be remembered as a guy who never got the defense over the hump. In his time in Cleveland, he was never a dominant linebacker and never once experienced a playoff game. The only year the Browns had a formidable defense was in 2013, which was arguably his worst season as a Brown.
According to ProFootballFocus.com (behind pay wall), Jackson has declined heavily in the last three seasons. He was the 13th ranked inside linebacker in the NFL in 2011 but ranked 41st in 2012 and 42nd in 2013. He also received the sixth lowest grade for inside linebackers last season against the run.
It is tough to judge a man who was constantly surrounded by mediocre talent in a franchise that was constantly changing. He, kicker Phil Dawson and returner Josh Cribbs were the three players who were a constant for the better part of a decade.
While head coaches, defensive coordinators, general managers, presidents and even a C.E.O. were shown the door, Jackson remained. He was the one player we in the media could count on to talk after every game, and he always said the right thing.
He didn’t just say the right thing, however. He meant it. Even in his statement from the team on Wednesday he was still gracious.
"To the people of Cleveland and Browns fans everywhere: Eight years ago I began a journey that blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization and community. I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for opening your arms and hearts to my family and me, and for making Cleveland an easy place to love and call home. It’s been an honor playing in front of you.
“I also would like to thank the Browns players, coaches and staff for their tireless work and commitment. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all and will always carry you with me."
While all that is well and good, he needed to be replaced. Being a nice guy is not a substitute for being a Pro Bowl linebacker. Jackson’s best seasons were in a 4-3 base defense. The Browns now have a 3-4 base defense.
He is not what he once was, and Jackson has never been a big play linebacker. His speed has declined and he cannot keep up with the youth and athleticism in the NFL. So the Browns decided to move on and save a little money in the process.
They are now saddled with the task of finding not one but two starting inside linebackers. With $55 million in projected cap space and 10 draft picks they have the ammo to make it happen. We will soon find out what Ray Farmer can do with that many bullets in his gun.