By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Ray Farmer’s first tough decision as general manager of the Browns has resulted in the release of the most respected player in their locker room.
The Browns decided to release inside linebacker and defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson rather than pay a $4 million roster bonus.
He was also due a $100, 000 workout bonus and $3.933 million salary as a result of incentives met last year, when he played every defensive snap (1,149) except a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the Minnesota game.
Jackson and the Browns had talks after the collective dust of coaching and front-office blow-ups settled. But there surely is evidence that this was more than a financial decision. Such as:
* The Browns have plenty of salary cap room – reportedly $51.2 million – under a cap that may balloon as high as $132 million. If they badly wanted him to remain in the middle of new coach Mike Pettine’s defense, they could have accommodated that with some agreeable restructuring.
* Mike Silver of NFL Network reported that before Bart Scott ended his playing career and accepted a position with CBS, the Browns were interested in bringing in the former Ravens and Jets linebacker to serve as a stop-gap.
Pettine, who coached Scott at Baltimore and the Jets, was asked about Jackson last week at the NFL Combine and praised him for his intangibles but made no reference to Jackson’s fit in his defensive scheme.
“It’s easy to see why he’s so highly thought of. The leadership ability, the intangibles to me are off the chart,” Pettine said.
The coach said he spoke with Jackson “within the first week I was hired.”
“He was in town and bounced right up to the office. You could tell he’s special,” he said.
Jackson, 30, knew his contract would be a huge factor in his future with the Browns at the conclusion of the 2013 season. He sounded agreeable to working toward a restructuring and vowed to outlast the franchise’s losing ways because he wanted to be here when things got turned around.
But that was before Pettine replaced Rob Chudzinski as head coach and then Farmer replaced Mike Lombardi as GM and Joe Banner was fired as CEO.
In the club’s statement on the news, Farmer said:
“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. D’Qwell is the epitome of class, leadership and professionalism. Every day of his NFL career, D’Qwell has been a solid representative of the Browns and the City of Cleveland, both between the lines on Sundays and off the field in our area community. We want to thank him for his eight years of service and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”
Jackson was the longest-tenured player drafted by the club. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 draft, selected by former GM Phil Savage. Jackson suffered through four head coaches (Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Chudzinski) and five defensive coordinators (Todd Grantham, Mel Tucker, Rob Ryan, Dick Jauron, Ray Horton).
After Jackson suffered separate torn pectoral muscle injuries that cost him 22 games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, he worked hard to return and never missed a game in the succeeding three seasons.
He was rewarded by former GM Tom Heckert in 2012 with a five-year contract extension totaling $38.5 million. His release will cost the Browns $4.2 million in “dead money” on their cap – but that’s $5.233 million less than Jackson would have counted under his current contract.
In the statement released by the Browns, Jackson said:
“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."
In the six seasons in which Jackson played 16 games, he averaged 139 tackles. Overall, in his eight years in Cleveland (one inactive), Jackson suffered through seven losing seasons. The Browns were 41-87 in those years.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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