The Steelers’ trade for William Jackson did not end up leading to any playing time. Unsurprisingly, the team is moving on. The Steelers are releasing Jackson, per The Score’s Jordan Schultz (on Twitter).
Jackson has gone from signing an eight-figure-per-year contract to being jettisoned by two teams over the past few months. Washington sent the veteran cornerback to Pittsburgh for a low-end return at the deadline. An injury kept Jackson off the field, and he will head back to free agency two years after hitting the market as one of the top players available.
This transaction will result in the Steelers saving $12.2MM, making it one of the more obvious cost-saving moves during this year’s cut wave. Jackson was attached to a three-year, $40.5MM deal, but the Commanders began to backtrack early last season. While Jackson fared well with the Bengals, the 30-year-old cover man’s career is at a crossroads.
Washington remains responsible for $9MM of Jackson’s 2023 money, and the Washington Post’s Sam Fortier notes the conditions of the trade not being met will not give the NFC East team the right to swap picks with Pittsburgh in the 2025 seventh round (Twitter link). The Commanders ended up saving $2.77MM — the remainder of Jackson’s 2022 base salary — but this will go down as a significant free agency miss for the team.
Cornerback has long been considered a position of need for the Steelers heading into free agency, regardless of if they are able to retain Cameron Sutton. The 28-year-old figures to have plenty of suitors on the open market, after he notched three interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 2022, both career-highs. Jackson will not play into Pittsburgh’s plans if Sutton departs.
Jackson has more than $46MM in career earnings to date, but a more modest contract than the past two he has played on surely awaits him in the near future. Sutton, along with the likes of James Bradberry and recent cuts such as Shaquill Griffin and Ronald Darby, headline the options in the 2023 free agency class. Jackson will slot in behind those names, but his previous success could land him a deal allowing him to rebuild at least some of his value.