After missing almost all of the 2022 season, Austin Jackson has been in place for the Dolphins’ offensive surge this year. The team did not pick up its right tackle’s fifth-year option, but it has seen enough to reinvest via an extension.
The Dolphins and Jackson are in agreement on a three-year deal, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports. The extension is worth $36MM in base value and includes $20.7MM guaranteed. Although Jackson was months from free agency, he will lock in a nice contract now.
This represents a significant turnaround for the 2020 first-round pick. Jackson missed 15 games last season, playing all of 84 snaps. A Week 1 ankle injury derailed Jackson’s first right tackle season, and an attempt to come back led the USC product to season-ending IR. A year later, Jackson has been a constant on an injury-plagued offensive line.
As the only right tackle to be protecting a quarterback’s blindside this season, Jackson has played in all 12 Dolphins games. This season has also brought rare continuity for a player the team had once identified as its post-Laremy Tunsil left tackle. Miami traded Tunsil to Houston in August 2019, as it shed talent during an aggressive rebuild. Jackson, however, bounced from left tackle to guard to right tackle over his first three seasons, never settling at one spot. This offseason brought his first opportunity to play the same position in consecutive years.
Pro Football Focus ranks Jackson 36th among tackles this season, but his availability has been important for a Dolphins O-line that has seen every other starter miss time. Big-ticket UFA addition Terron Armstead has again battled injuries, while left guard Isaiah Wynn is likely out for the season. Connor Williams, who angled for a new deal this offseason, has missed multiple games. Right guard Robert Hunt, who also looms as an extension candidate, has battled a hamstring injury. Despite Jackson’s ankle issue and nomadic positional past leading the Dolphins to pass on his $14.18MM fifth-year option, he will lock in an upper-echelon RT deal seven months later.
This is not a top-tier RT accord. The Texans gave 2019 first-rounder Tytus Howard a more lucrative three-year deal this summer; that pact checked in at $18.7MM per year, putting Howard in the top five at the position. Jackson’s deal profiles as a team-friendly contract. The AAV puts the 24-year-old blocker 11th among right tackles. While Jackson could have attempted to bet on himself and maximize his leverage by heading toward the market or hitting free agency in March, he opted to lock in Dolphins-favorable terms now.
Adding intrigue to Jackson’s decision, two right tackles — Jawaan Taylor and Mike McGlinchey — signed deals north of $17.5MM per year as free agents this offseason. Jackson’s deal, however, does check in north of the contract the Falcons gave Kaleb McGary (three years, $34.5MM) on the market. Considering Jackson does not have a multiyear sample size of quality play, this could be looked at as a reasonable middle ground for team and player.
The Dolphins now have both their tackles signed through 2026, though Armstead’s injury troubles continue to impede him. Williams and Hunt are on track for 2024 free agency, leaving Miami with some work to do. But Jackson’s unavailability forced the team into some patchwork RT solutions last season — a year that brought Tua Tagovailoa concussion issues that overshadowed the team’s season. The ascending southpaw quarterback suffered two confirmed concussions, and an apparent head injury in Week 3 led to an overhaul of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Jackson was not on the field when any of these injuries occurred.
Tagovailoa and Jackson’s rebounds have coincided with Miami leading the NFL in total offense (second in points scored) and soaring to a 9-3 record, one that has the team three games up on Buffalo in the AFC East. The Dolphins are closing in on their first division title since the Chad Pennington-piloted 2008 season. With Tagovailoa likely on the cusp of an extension, the team now has his blindside blocker locked in.