Former NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson was found dead in a hotel room Monday in Brandon, Florida, Josh Benson of WFLA reports (on Twitter). He was 38.
Jackson checked into the hotel Jan. 11 and had stayed there for weeks, but WFLA adds he was reported missing on Feb. 10. Authorities spoke with Jackson on Saturday. A housekeeper at the hotel found him dead around 11:30am ET Monday. No cause of death has been reported. Deputies did not discover any signs of trauma, according to WFLA.
A former Chargers second-round pick, Jackson starred in the NFL for over a decade. He played 12 seasons with the Bolts and Buccaneers. In six of those, the 6-foot-5 wideout surpassed 1,000 receiving yards. Despite being a Division I-FCS product, Jackson made three Pro Bowls and was one of the league’s better receivers for most of his career.
Jackson’s career ran from 2005-16. In 2018, he was said to be “very happily retired” after a decorated career. For four straight years, Jackson won the Bucs’ Man of the Year award. He signed with Tampa Bay in 2012 and played five seasons with the team.
The Bolts drafted Jackson out of Northern Colorado in 2005. They did not use him much as a rookie, but the small-school product stepped into a key role for the contending Chargers a year later and joined Antonio Gates as the team’s top pass catchers for the next several seasons. Jackson was a key player for the Charger teams that won four straight AFC West titles from 2006-09. Jackson held out in 2010 but reported in-season to preserve an accrued year toward free agency. Ten years ago today, the Chargers franchise-tagged him. A year later, Jackson signed a five-year, $55.5MM deal with the Bucs. Jackson played out that contract.
Jackson posted his final three 1,000-yard campaigns as a member of the Bucs, doing so despite lacking the quarterback stability he enjoyed with Philip Rivers. Jackson wrapped his run as a pro by forming one of the more physically imposing receiving duos in NFL history, with Mike Evans joining him in Tampa in 2014. Both Jackson and Evans eclipsed 1,000 yards that year. For his career, Jackson finished with 540 catches for 9,080 yards and 57 touchdowns.
Vincent Jackson is “very happily retired” from the NFL, a representative for the wide receiver tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Jackson has played in over a year-and-a-half, so the news was largely expected.
Jackson appeared in three Pro Bowls over the course of his 12-year NFL career with the Chargers and Buccaneers. His last NFL season in 2016, however, did not go according to plan. That campaign ended after just five games due to a serious knee injury.
Now focused on community and business work in the Tampa, Florida area, the 35-year-old has fully transitioned into post-NFL life. He leaves the game with 9,080 receiving yards and 57 touchdowns and six individual seasons with 1,000 yards or more.
Jackson entered the league as a second-round pick of the (then San Diego) Chargers in 2005. Injuries hampered him as an NFL freshman, but he eventually blossomed into a dangerous receiving threat. A contract dispute later soured his relationship with Bolts brass, leading him to sign a five-year, $55.55MM free agent deal with the Bucs in 2012. Things started with a bang in Tampa as he enjoyed a career year with 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. His eye-popping of 19.2 yards per catch led the NFL that year.
After a successful and lucrative NFL career, Jackson has decided to focus on other endeavors. It sounds like he’s settled into post-football life, even if Jon Gruden calls him up.
Some assorted notes from around the NFL as we wrap up this Monday evening…
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he was not involved in the evaluation process in promoting BrettVeach to GM (Twitter link via James Palmer of NFL.com). The Chiefs promoted the 39-year-old earlier this month, and reports indicated that while Veach will have control over the roster, he’ll ultimately work in tandem with his head coach.
Here’s something that could affect the Browns‘ roster bubble: Duke Johnson profiles more as a wide receiver right now than a running back, Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer writes. Johnson is the leading candidate to replace Andrew Hawkins as the team’s No. 1 slot receiver and has been split out wide at times in practice. After carrying the ball 104 times as a rookie, Johnson ran the ball only 73 times in 2016 and he could be looking at another reduction this year.
The Colts have not had substantive extension talks with left guard Jack Mewhort as he enters his contract year, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star tweets. Mewhort has started at left guard with some appearances at tackle since entering the league in 2014. Unfortunately, the former second round pick saw his season cut short last year due to a knee injury. Mewhort has graded out as a starting caliber player for the Colts in each of his NFL seasons. In 2016, he was PFF’s 23rd ranked guard.
Titans guard Sebastian Tretola apparently suffered a minor injury from a bullet, and ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky tweeted a statement from the organization: “We are aware of the reports that Sebastian received treatment for a wound when he was grazed by a bullet…He has been released from the hospital and is thankful for only a minor injury.” The 2016 sixth-round pick appeared in only one game as a rookie last season.
Following news that Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams might need season-ending surgery on a herniated disk in his back, ESPN.com’s Eric D. Williams explored whether the team could bring back veteran Vincent Jackson. The writer ultimately believes that he wouldn’t be a fit, as the team could rely on a number of young players to fill the void. Alternatively, the team could opt for a number of free agents (including Stevie Johnson and Vincent Brown) who are more familiar with the team’s current offensive scheme. Jackson spent the first seven seasons of his career in San Diego, earning a pair of Pro Bowl selections.
Free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson has fielded inquiries from interested NFL clubs, but it sounds as though he’d prefer to return to the Buccaneers. Appearing on 620 WDAE Friday, Jackson maintained that while he isn’t currently working on a deal with Tampa Bay, he feels he’d be a solid fit in Dirk Koetter‘s offense.
“I’m just going to wait until the right opportunity presents itself,” Jackson said (link via JoeBucsFan.com). “I’m assuming it may be later this spring/early summer when people can kind of evaluate their roster, get through the draft, and know exactly what they need and what the value is. For me man, I’m being patient.”
Jackson, 34, appeared in only five games for the Buccaneers in 2016 after suffering an ACL injury. During that time, he caught 15 of 32 targets for 173 yards and zero touchdowns. Tampa Bay reportedly discussed a potential reunion with Jackson, but general manager Jason Licht hinted last month that Jackson’s time with the club may be over.
“We did have conversations with Vincent,” Licht said. “I have the utmost respect for him. Everybody in the organization does. In my mind, in head coach Dirk [Koetter’s] mind, in the owners’ minds, he’ll be a Buc for life. So whatever happens happens, but we’ll always want Vincent to be around the organization.”
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.
Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.
Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018.
Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.
Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.
The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.
Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.
In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.
The market has been slow to develop for Aiken but it sounds like things could pick up soon as he’s set to meet with the Colts and Seahawks. Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions last year, but he had 75 grabs for 944 yards in 2015.
Cruz was on the field for 15 regular season games last year and he could recapture some of his old form if a team uses him in the slot. Quick quietly had 44 catches for 564 yards and three touchdowns with the Rams last year, and he was playing in a less-than-stellar offense. Boldin, meanwhile, had 67 catches in 2016, but he averaged just 8.7 yards per reception.
It’s a thin group at tight end and everything drops off dramatically after Tamme and Rivera at the top. Donnell made some noise during his time with the Giants but it’s been a while since he’s done anything of note. Tamme and Rivera could be the only two players from this group to land a deal with any real guaranteed cash.
Things have thinned out at tackle but there are still some impact guys here including Clady, Dunlap, and the versatile Pasztor. Sebastian Vollmer, if healthy, would be an interesting pickup for a team in need of offensive line depth.
Evans can still go and he finished out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 36 guard in the NFL last season. We have a few notable centers here as well in Mangold, Sullivan, and Barnes. Some teams are asking Mangold to switch to guard, but he is hoping to continue in the middle.
NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.
Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.
Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.
As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.
Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.
Kyle Juszczyk graded out as the best fullback in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens would be wise to keep him, but if they don’t, he’ll draw interest from teams all over the league. Juszczyk earned his first career Pro Bowl nod as he caught 37 passes for 266 yards. His exceptional 92.1 pass blocking score from PFF led all other fullbacks by a wide margin.
Mike Tolbert is ranked lower than you might expect due to his age and diminished blocking skills. He’ll turn 32 in November and it’s not guaranteed that he’ll find another job after getting released by the Panthers, though the Jets are said to have interest in him. Gang Green could also look into signing Patrick DiMarco and Marcel Reece. If you ask me, they should target DiMarco if they want to truly emphasize the running game. DiMarco finished the year with the best run blocking score in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Brandon Marshall, welcome to the free agent pool. Marshall is just two years removed from a year in which he had 109 catches, 1,502 yards, and 14 touchdowns. However, his numbers dipped significantly last season as the entire Jets offense slumped. The veteran will get tons of interest this week and his suitors may include the Giants, Patriots, and Ravens.
Kenny Britt managed to put up big numbers in the midst of the Rams’ offensive quagmire last season. He now hits free agency at a great time and the WR-needy Eagles are the latest team to be connected to him. The South Jersey contingent of the Eagles fanbase will appreciate the homecoming of the Rutgers product. At the same time, they should hope he exhibits a better attitude than he did on the banks of the old Raritan.
The talent is definitely there with Markus Wheaton and the team that takes a chance on him could wind up very, very happy. Robert Woods, historically, thrived in games where Sammy Watkins was unavailable or limited. Woods doesn’t turn 25 in until April and there’s a case to be made that he should be higher on this list. Cordarrelle Patterson has turned out to be a very capable returner, but there are definitely ambitious coaches out there who think they can still mold him into a great receiver. Michael Floyd is now years removed from his best work in Arizona, so one has to wonder what he can contribute even if he has turned over a new leaf.
Victor Cruz is an exceptionally hard-worker and a team-first kind of guy. He’ll be a great addition to any locker room, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll do in 2017. We’ll say this: a return to the slot would greatly benefit him.
Anquan Boldinjust missed the top 15 and I don’t necessarily feel great about it. Brian Quickalso missed the cut and it was a toss-up between him and Cruz for that last spot.
Anthony Fasano finds himself ranked higher than some bigger names due to his blocking ability. PFF gave Fasano an 88.1 score for run blocking, which was the best of any tight end last year. His 72.9 pass blocking score was fourth-best among TEs. The Titans will make a real effort to keep him.
Andrew Whitworth spent some time at guard last season but his best (and most profitable) position is on the outside. He’s 35, so he won’t lead all FA tackles in total money this year despite being our top-ranked free at the position.
Russell Okung was thrust into the free agent market in February when the Broncos declined his option. This time around, it will be interesting to see whether he hires an agent. His previous deal was effectively a one-year pact with a club option for a four-year, $48MM deal with $20.5MM in guaranteed cash. After a so-so year, the Broncos wisely turned it down.
Austin Pasztor is listed as a tackle here, though it’s quite possible he reverts to the interior line in 2017. Mike Adams, a former second-round pick, makes the cut for his natural talent, even though he hasn’t shown much at the professional level. Will Beatty also found his way to the Top 15, but his market will be capped after two injury-ridden years.
Honorable mention: D.J. Fluker, A.Q. Shipley (C), Brian Schwenke (C)
Kevin Zeitler was the only offensive lineman to crack our Top 50 Free Agents list last week. Zeitler, 27 in March, was PFF’s No. 7 ranked guard in the NFL this year. After three consecutive strong seasons, he is going to get big bucks.
J.C. Tretter graded out as a top 10 center last year, according to PFF, and he just turned 26. Stefen Wisniewski offers experience at both guard and center and there should be at least a few teams looking at him as a potential starter.
There has been talk that Vincent Jackson could retire, but the wide receiver plans on playing in 2017, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Jackson is coming off of a disappointing season in which an MCL sprain limited him to only five games.
Jackson, 34, is a pending free agent. When asked about the veteran’s status this week, GM Jason Licht hinted that he probably won’t be back with the Bucs next season.
“We did have conversations with Vincent,” general manager Jason Licht said Wednesday. “I have the utmost respect for him. Everybody in the organization does. In my mind, in head coach Dirk [Koetter’s] mind, in the owners’ minds, he’ll be a Buc for life. So whatever happens happens, but we’ll always want Vincent to be around the organization.”
Jackson has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark six different times in his career, but he has played in only 15 games in the last two years. Given his advanced age and knee problems, it’s not clear what he can bring to the table next year. Jackson could also be selective about any offers that come his way. The wide receiver has appeared in seven playoff games thanks to his time with the Chargers but he has never won a championship. Often times, players like him will only want to sign with contending clubs.
The Buccaneers and impending free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson have discussed a potential return, but the 34-year-old could retire, writes Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. “We did have conversations with Vincent,” general manager Jason Licht said Wednesday. “I have the utmost respect for him. Everybody in the organization does. In my mind, in head coach Dirk [Koetter’s] mind, in the owners’ minds, he’ll be a Buc for life. So whatever happens happens, but we’ll always want Vincent to be around the organization.”
Jackson has been with the Buccaneers since 2012, and he started 16 games in each of his first three seasons as a member of the club, but he has endured back-to-back knee injury-shortened campaigns. The six-time 1,000-yard man has combined for just 15 appearances since 2015.
Regardless of whether the Buccaneers re-sign Jackson, they’re going to target “playmakers” this offseason, Licht revealed. Entering free agency, only three teams have more cap space than the Bucs.
More from the NFC South:
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and guard Ben Garland will be tendered as RFAs (Twitter link via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). He did not specify what level, however. Gabriel was the far bigger contributor of the two last year, when he averaged 16.5 yards per catch on 35 receptions and combined for seven touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Garland appeared in all 16 of the Falcons’ regular-season games, but he didn’t start any.
Dimitroff also announced that the Falcons will let defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux become an unrestricted free agent after 12 years together, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Conversely, the Falcons are trying to re-sign fullback Patrick DiMarco (Twitter link). Babineaux, 35, has totaled 185 appearances, 133 starts, 27 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in Atlanta, which selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft. He’s coming off the eighth 16-game season of his career, in which he picked up six starts and 22 tackles. DiMarco, a four-year Falcon, has three 16-appearance seasons in a row under his belt. He made eight starts in 2016.
Panthers GM Dave Gettleman told reporters on Wednesday that tackle Michael Oher is still in the league’s concussion protocol. This means the Panthers could be in the market for a starting left tackle. Oher has been dealing with a brain injury since September and only played in three games last year as a result. The eight-year veteran is under contract through 2019.
Reserve defensive end Darryl Tapp made it clear Wednesday that he wants to re-sign with the Saints, relays Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Tapp’s agent and the Saints have engaged in discussions about a new deal. The 32-year-old journeyman just finished his first season in New Orleans, where he started in two of 16 appearances.
As of last month, the Buccaneers hadn’t held contract talks with soon-to-be free agent running back Jacquizz Rodgers. However, the team would “love to have” him back, Licht stated (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). Rodgers, 27, put up 560 yards on 129 rushes (4.3 per carry) and scored two touchdowns last season.
November 23rd, 2016 at 11:54am CST by Zachary Links
The Buccaneers announced that running back Charles Sims has been designated for return from injured reserve. Sims will now begin his 21-day practice window.
The Bucs’ backfield was cursed this season with injuries claiming Doug Martin, Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Antone Smith (done for year). In August, the Bucs’ running back group was one of the stronger units in the league. Mere weeks later, Tampa Bay was hard up for RB production.
Martin, who wishes that you no longer refer to him as “Muscle Hamster,” returned to action a couple of weeks ago. In the last two games, he has amassed just 96 yards off of 40 carries. As Martin works his way back to 100% health, Sims could help to jumpstart Tampa Bay’s running game.
Sims’ return means that Vincent Jackson cannot play again in 2016. Jackson did not suffer a complete ACL tear as initially feared, so a comeback was still possible for him this season. However, it sounds like he’ll need additional recovery time. The 5-5 Buccaneers still have a shot at the playoffs and they are opting for a mostly healthy Sims to help their running game over a banged up Jackson.
November 16th, 2016 at 5:18pm CST by Connor J. Byrne
When the Buccaneers placed Vincent Jackson on IR with a knee injury Oct. 23, there were questions as to whether the wide receiver had suffered a torn ACL. He dodged that fate, according to the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez, but Jackson’s ailment is nonetheless severe enough to prevent him from playing again this year. With that being the case, the Buccaneers will designate running back Charles Sims as the player they bring back from IR, per Marvez. Sims, who also suffered a knee injury last month, will be eligible to return Week 13.
With his season over and his contract set to expire at year’s end, Jackson has perhaps played his final game with the Buccaneers. While Jackson has been highly effective with the Chargers and Bucs during his 13-year career, the three-time Pro Bowler is on the wrong end of the aging curve (34 in January) and has now seen back-to-back seasons end early because of knee injuries. Prior to going down in Week 5 this year, the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Jackson hauled in 15 receptions for 173 yards on 32 targets. During his half-decade in Tampa Bay, Jackson has totaled 268 grabs, 16.1 yards per catch (compared to just 11.5 this season) and 20 touchdowns.
Sims, meanwhile, is part of a backfield that has dealt with an absurd amount of injuries this season. Starter Doug Martin returned last Sunday from a two-plus-month absence on account of hamstring troubles, while backups Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith have also missed time (Smith’s season is over). As a result, the Buccaneers rank toward the bottom of the NFL in rushing this year after finishing near the top last season with the one-two punch of Martin and Sims. Fortunately for 4-5 Tampa Bay, it appears the duo will factor in down the stretch as the club clings to slim playoff hopes.