The Broncos let defensive end Malik Jackson walk in free agency, but they didn’t do so without putting up a fight. Speaking today to reporters, including Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post (Twitter link), Jackson said he declined a five-year, $53MM contract offer from Denver before the start of free agency. Jackson went on to sign with the Jaguars for six years and $85.5MM.
Jackson, 26, admitted that had the Broncos offered the same contract prior to the 2015 season, he likely would have accepted, but acknowledged that “things changed” as the campaign progressed. For one, Denver extended fellow defensive end Derek Wolfe on a four-year, $36.7MM deal, and Jackson “thought [he] would demand a few more dollars than [Wolfe],” tweets Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Second, Jackson played extremely well, grading as the league’s No. 16 interior defender per Pro Football Focus, and skyrocketed to the No. 2 overall position on PFR’s Top 2016 Free Agents.
Of course, while it’s difficult to compare the specifics of Denver’s offer to Jacksonville’s offer without knowing the exact nature and structure of the Broncos’ proposal, it’s safe to say that Jackson made the right decision in heading to the free agent market. He scored $31.5MM guaranteed from the Jaguars, and he’ll earn $44.5MM in the first three years of the deal — both figures would have been extremely difficult for Denver to match given their spate of 2016 free agents.
Jackson, for his part, has held up his end of the deal thus far, ranking as PFF’s 24th-best interior defender on the season. However, the Broncos are getting along without him, as they’ve posted a 7-4 record while fielding the NFL’s No. 2 defense by DVOA. The Jaguars, on the other hand, are last in the AFC South with a 2-9 mark, and despite Jackson’s contributions, their defense ranks only 16th in DVOA.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.