A mildly regarded fifth-round pick in 2012, Malik Jackson emerged as one of the more underrated cogs in the Denver Broncos defense. The Jacksonville Jaguars recognized his ascent Tuesday by awarding him with a massive new contract. They officially announced the deal on Thursday.
Josina Anderson of ESPN received confirmation from Jackson on Tuesday that he plans to leave for the Jaguars.
Jackson seemed happy about the deal on Twitter, saying, "What a time to be alive."
Jackson, 26, spent his first four seasons in Denver. He became a full-time starter for the first time in 2015, compiling 45 tackles and five sacks. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 16th-best interior defensive lineman in football, and he helped turn Denver into the most fearsome pass rush in football.
The Broncos led the NFL with 52 sacks in the regular season, allowing the fewest passing yards and ranking fourth in opponent passer rating. Jackson, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware created a three-man force of nature that helped push Denver to an AFC championship.
"I feel like the more you can do, the more you get to do in this league, and the more that you do, as far as being good [at it] goes, the more recognition that you get," Jackson said, per Allie Raymond of the Broncos' official website. "I came in as a tweener but that just means I can play end or 3[-technique] and that gave me the opportunity to do more, and once I kind of got on the field and got comfortable and got confident, that just helped me out. I think it's just a title."
Now, the secret is out of the bag. Jackson's new contract should afford him anchor status on Jacksonville's defensive line, though it'll be interesting to see how he fares as a primary option rather than a part of an elite collective. He started only eight games in his first three seasons, before 2015.
The Jaguars will also have their fingers crossed Jackson works out better than the last two Denver players they signed. Guard Zane Beadles was released earlier this month just two years into a $30 million contract awarded to him in 2014. The Jags also pilfered tight end Julius Thomas last offseason, who went on to see his touchdown receptions cut by more than half from 2014.
While Jackson's production indicates he can more than handle the workload, it's now an expectation rather than a happy accident. He will need to perform at a high level instantly for this contract to work out, especially now that he's being paid like a superstar.
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