Colts Sign D’Qwell Jackson

FRIDAY, 10:45am: Jackson’s deal includes a signing bonus of just $1MM, with a guaranteed base salary of $4.5MM in 2014, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. 2015 includes a $4.63MM roster bonus that will be guaranteed as of next week, as well as an $870K base salary (Twitter links). The modest signing bonus will make it much more manageable for the Colts to get out of the contract in the third or fourth year without carrying much dead money.

THURSDAY, 8:33am: The Colts have reached an agreement to sign free agent linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The team’s owner, Jim Irsay, first teased the deal, tweeting: “We’ve agreed to terms with a new member of our defense…” Because he was released by the Browns last month, Jackson was free to sign with a new team before next Tuesday, when the 2014 free agent period officially begins.

The agreement between the Colts and Jackson will be for four years and $22MM, reports Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports 1 (Twitter link). According to Garafolo, $11MM – or 50% – of the overall value of the contract will be guaranteed, though Pro Football Talk notes (via Twitter) that some of that guarantee may be for injury only.

Jackson, 30, had been expected to decide on his free agent destination by the end of the week, having narrowed his options down to the Colts, Titans, Broncos, and Dolphins. By signing in Indianapolis, Jackson will be reunited with former Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski, who was added to the Colts’ staff as a special assistant last month. Jackson will be slotted in as an inside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 scheme, playing alongside Jerrell Freeman. Pat Angerer and Kelvin Sheppard filled that position for the Colts last season, but Angerer is expected to depart in free agency, and Sheppard appears headed for a reserve role.

2013 wasn’t a particularly strong season for Jackson according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, as he ranked 42nd of 55 qualified inside linebackers. In fact, it’s perhaps a bit of an upset to see the veteran sign with another 3-4 team, since he has historically graded better as the middle linebacker in a 4-3 system. Still, Jackson was a longtime defensive leader in Cleveland, and he racks up tackles, having easily surpassed 100 in each of his healthy NFL seasons since his rookie year. The former 34th overall pick will undoubtedly be an upgrade for a Colts defense in need of improvement.

With Jackson locked up, expect the Colts to turn their free agent focus to wide receivers and defensive lineman, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, who thinks that Arthur Jones of the Ravens would be a “natural fit” (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.