September 19th, 2023 at 10:20am CST by Adam La Rose
In need of depth in the secondary, the Eagles are turning their attention to a veteran corner still on the open market. William Jacksonis headed to Philadelphia for a free agent visit, per Jordan Schultz of the Score.
Veteran slot man Avonte Maddoxis set to undergo surgery on a torn pectoral muscle, a procedure which may very well sideline him for the rest of the season. It thus comes as no surprise the Eagles are now in the market for an addition at the cornerback spot, though Jackson has seen far more time on the perimeter than the inside over the course of his career.
The former first-rounder had a forgettable 2022 campaign, seeing time in only four games with the Commanders before being dealt to the Steelers. While battling a back injury, he failed to see any game time in Pittsburgh, and the team made the easy decision to release him in the offseason. As was reported in May, and as Schultz confirms, however, Jackson is now fully healthy.
The Ravens and Giants hosted Jackson in August, confirming reports that interest was picking up late in the offseason. His visit to those teams signaled a deal could be on the horizon, but he remains unsigned well into the start of the regular season. The 30-year-old does have 64 starts to his name, though, and he could provide at least quality depth at the CB spot for the Eagles as they look to sort out their plans at the position moving forward.
James Bradberrysaw time in the slot during training camp, and a Jackson addition could move him there on a full-time basis. The Eagles could shift to a CB alignment including Bradberry on the inside, with Darius Slayand former UDFA Josh Jobeon the perimeter, allowing Jackson to serve as a backup. The latter will surely see a low-cost deal when he ultimately signs with the Eagles or another interested team. Philadelphia should be able to comfortably afford him in such a scenario, though, as the team currently has just under $6MM in cap space.
After Don Martindale‘s former team took a look at the ex-Bengals starter, the second-year Giants DC will determine a fit. Jackson worked as an NFC East starter in 2021, but a disastrous 2022 tanked his value. The Commanders benched Jackson early and then traded him to the Steelers — for a low-end return that ended up not conveying — at the deadline. With Ronald Darbysigning for just $1.7MM, it would surprise if Jackson were able to secure more than the veteran minimum given his most recent season.
Washington inked Jackson to a three-year, $40.5MM deal in 2021. A 48-game starter with the Bengals, Jackson loomed as one of the top free agents on a 2021 market impacted by the COVID-19-induced salary cap reduction. The veteran still cashed in, but the tide turned for him early in 2022. Commanders DC Jack Del Rio benched Jackson in Week 5, leading to the trade to Pittsburgh. A back injury, however, kept him from suiting up for the Steelers. Although they designated Jackson for return ahead of a potential Week 18 win-and-in game, Jackson was never activated. He received his walking papers in March.
Hawkins is not a lock to start for the Giants, but first-rounder Deonte Banksis. Banks is set to join Adoree’ Jackson in the Giants’ lineup. The Giants have experimented with Jackson in the slot during camp, a configuration that would allow Martindale to use Banks and Hawkins on the outside. The team has two slot options — in Darnay Holmes and 2022 third-rounder Cor’Dale Flott — as well, but the Dunleavy adds the Giants going with a Banks-Hawkins-Jackson trio to start the season remains in play. This would be an interesting ask of Jackson, a career-long boundary corner, and shine a spotlight on Hawkins.
Additionally, Aaron Robinson, a Week 1 starter last season, remains on the team’s active/PUP list due to the knee injury he sustained early in the year. Robinson remaining on the PUP list after the Giants finalize their roster on August 29 would mean a mandatory four absences to start the season. Considering Robinson has not practiced yet, that scenario seems likely.
John Harbaugh hinted yesterday that the Ravens could be seeking some reinforcement at cornerback, and the team will take a look at a veteran defensive back to potentially fill that void. According to Josina Anderson (on Twitter), William Jackson III is visiting with the Ravens today.
It wasn’t long ago that Jackson inked a three-year, $40.5MM deal with Washington. The cornerback was limited to only 12 games during his first season with the organization thanks to a calf injury, and his 2022 campaign saw him disappoint in four games before getting benched. Jackson asked for a trade and eventually got his wish, with Washington sending the cornerback to Pittsburgh. However, he spent much of his time with the Steelers on injured reserve, and he didn’t get into a game before earning his walking papers.
We heard earlier this offseason that the cornerback was back to full health and was mulling opportunities from multiple teams. Of course, Jackson will now have to settle for a prove-it deal at this point of his career, but there’s still plenty of intrigue. Sure, the 30-year-old would have graded as one of the worst cornerbacks in the league had he played enough snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus. However, the site was much more bullish on his production during his time with the Bengals, including a rookie season where he ranked fourth at the position.
The Ravens’ current issues at cornerback could be temporary considering the team’s injuries. Rock Ya-Sin, Jalyn Armour-Davis, and Arthur Maulet are currently sidelined, and Pepe Williams has also been limited during training camp. Despite the injuries, Harbaugh seemed to hint that the organization was eyeing more than a healthy body, meaning a potential cornerback acquisition would have a legitimate shot at making the roster.
Deep into the post-draft wave of free agency, many veterans still on the market are facing a shrinking number of suitors as they look for their best fit ahead of training camp. Cornerback William Jackson falls into that category, but his wait to land a new opportunity may not last much longer.
Jackson is at full health in anticipation of summer offseason programs, as noted (on Twitter) by Aaron Wilson of KPRC2. Wilson adds that Jackson has received interest from “multiple teams,” and that he is evaluating his options with the aim of finding the right fit to continue his career. The 30-year-old played in four games with the Commanders last season.
Jackson finished the season in Pittsburgh, though, after they traded for him at the deadline. That move came after his tenure in Washington ended in unspectacular fashion, especially given the lucrative deal (three-years, $40.5MM) he had been playing on. The Steelers’ willingness to trade for him prevented a release, but Jackson never ended up seeing any game time in Pittsburgh due to an injury.
Facing the possibility of saving $12.75MM in cap space, the Steelers made the expected move of releasing the former first-rounder in March. Cornerback was a position of need for Pittsburgh this offseason, but their lack of interest in signing Jackson to a prove-it type deal makes it little surprise that he still finds himself on the open market. At full health, though, he could prove to be an effective pickup this late into the roster-building part of the calendar.
Jackson has started 64 of 74 career games, and he recorded a career-best 45 tackles along with 11 pass breakups and a pair of interceptions in 2020, his fourth and final season with the Bengals. A first-team role likely wouldn’t await him on a new team given the recent deals dished out by CB-needy teams to the likes of Rock Ya-Sinand Shaquill Griffin. Jackson may have to compete with fellow veteran Marcus Peters to be the next notable corner to sign a contract, but the lack of other available options could help his market value as he looks to get his career back on track in a new setting.
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 Bradberryand recent cuts such as Shaquill Griffinand 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.
The Steelers’ trade for William Jackson has not led to any game action. Ahead of a possible win-and-in game in Week 18, however, that could change.
Jackson received a return designation Wednesday. The veteran cornerback is back at practice. The Steelers acquired Jackson just before the trade deadline, but a back injury lingered for the former Bengals and Commanders defender. This move comes a week after the Steelers designated cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for return. Both players can be activated by Saturday’s deadline.
While the Steelers have three weeks to activate Jackson, they may be down to their final game. FiveThirtyEight gives Pittsburgh a 21% chance to make the playoffs. The Steelers (8-8) need to beat the Browns and see both the Patriots and Dolphins lose. It would be a borderline-historic achievement if the Steelers rallied back from 2-6 to the postseason, considering only two teams — the 1970 Bengals and 2020 Washington Football Team — have come back from that record to qualify.
This represents a lost season for Jackson, whom the Commanders benched in September. Jackson was not part of that 2020 Washington iteration, having signed with the team in March 2021. Washington gave the former Cincinnati first-rounder a three-year, $40.5MM deal but was quickly dissatisfied with his performance this season. The Steelers acquired Jackson for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2025, acquiring a conditional seventh-rounder in that draft in the deal as well.
Jackson, 30, has made 64 career starts and fared well enough with the Bengals to command those contractual terms. That contract led to Jackson’s low trade value, but Pittsburgh adjusted the deal upon acquiring the seventh-year vet. Jackson is attached to a $5MM base salary this season and a nonguaranteed $9.25MM base in 2023.
Given how this season went, it would be a bit of a surprise if Jackson played on that deal next year. The Steelers can save $12.75MM by releasing Jackson once such moves are allowed come February. Then again, the Steelers do not have much invested at corner. Both Witherspoon and Levi Wallace are attached to low-cost contracts; Cameron Sutton is due for free agency. The team also received a tremendous return from Joe Haden, having signed the former first-rounder quickly after the Browns cut him back in 2017.
6:00pm: After undergoing an appendectomy to deal with the appendicitis Fitzpatrick suffered through in walkthroughs today, the two-time All-Pro safety is expected to miss multiple weeks in recovery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Steelers will want Fitzpatrick back on the field as soon as possible, but typically, appendectomies have resulted in missing more than one week. Schefter points at the most recent major player to undergo the procedure as an example. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow underwent the surgery just before training camp and missed two-and-a-half weeks.
A similar-length absence would see Fitzpatrick miss tomorrow’s game and next weekend’s matchup vs the Bengals. An extra day means that he could return in time for the team’s Monday night game in Indianapolis the week after, but that’s an extremely optimistic timeline.
Behind Norwood, whom we mentioned below as the likely replacement, Pittsburgh recently returned Damontae Kazee from IR. They’ll also have Miles Killebrew and the practice squad elevation, Riley.
Fitzpatrick is set to miss his first game of the season and just the second game of his career. Despite the team’s struggles this year, Fitzpatrick has maintained a high level of play. He has been all over the defensive backfield this year racking up six passes defensed along with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Being only halfway through the season, Fitzpatrick is on track for career highs in both numbers, assuming he can make a quick return from his appendicitis.
In the lone game Fitzpatrick has missed before this, which occurred last season, the Steelers started then-rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood in his place. Norwood had already made two starts at the time, being one of the first defensive backs off the bench in packages that called for five or six defensive backs, but that was his first game playing 100% of the team’s defensive snaps and playing specifically in Fitzpatrick’s role. The Steelers’ pass defense struggled that day in a loss to the Chargers in which quarterback Justin Herbert passed for nearly 400 yards. It’s hard to blame the loss on Norwood’s stand-in performance, but considering the Steelers finished 2021 as a top-10 passing defense, one can infer some importance concerning Fitzpatrick’s absence. This year, Norwood started in place of an injured Terrell Edmunds in a Week 5 matchup against the Bills. Again, correlation does not exactly equal causation, but the team’s pass defense once again struggled as quarterback Josh Allen passed for 424 yards and four touchdowns on only 20 completions.
The return of Watt should be heralded in the Steel City as a giant addition to the defense. Outside of outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, the Steelers have struggled to produce an effective pass rush. Pittsburgh will gladly welcome pack their star defender who produced 22.5 sacks in only 15 games last season. Returning the reigning Defensive Player of the Year back to the field may not totally make up for the absence of Fitzpatrick, but it sure helps.
Jackson has yet to make his Steelers debut after being traded from the Commanders 11 days ago, and his debut will have to wait at least four more games after being placed on IR. Jackson had already missed the past three games for Washington while dealing with a back injury. Even though the season is only half over, the Steelers are far enough back in the division race that there is no sense in rushing Jackson to return from a back injury before he’s ready.
Lastly, in response to Fitzpatrick’s absence, the Steelers have elevated safety Elijah Riley from the practice squad for this weekend’s game against the Saints.
Despite being in the second half of the NFL season, teams are still actively cleaning up their books in anticipation of upcoming moves or future offseason transactions. We’ve compiled some of the notable financial moves below (plus an interesting note about a future Hall of Fame quarterback):
Jerome Baker, LB (Dolphins): restructured deal. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), Baker restructured his contract and reduced his 2022 cap hit by about $2.5MM. This restructuring came on the heels of Miami’s notable trade deadline acquisitions, moves that required the front office to clear up a bit of cap. The 2018 third-round pick has turned into a consistent starter for the Dolphins. After collecting more than 300 tackles through his first three professional seasons, Baker inked a three-year, $39MM extension with the organization back in 2021.
Brian O’Neill, OT (Vikings): restructured deal. According to Yates (on Twitter), the Vikings converted $1.8MM of O’Neill’s base salary into a signing bonus, creating close to $1.5MM in cap space. Prior to the move, the Vikings were closing in on the cap, so this should provide them with a bit more wiggle room. In 2021, the former second-round pick signed a five-year, $92.5MM extension with the organization, and he ended up earning his first career Pro Bowl nod later that season.
William Jackson III, CB (Steelers): reworked deal. Following his trade to Pittsburgh, Jackson agreed to wipe out the remainder of his per-game roster bonuses, per Yates (on Twitter). Those bonuses were valued at around $44K per game. The cornerback is still due the remainder of his base salary, valued at around $2.7MM, and he helped saved the organization $350K against the cap. Jackson is still attached to a three-year, $40.5MM deal that he signed with Washington in 2021. He was traded to the Steelers at the deadline for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick for a conditional 2025 seventh-round pick.
Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): contract details. It’s been a while since Aaron Rodgers inked his massive three-year, $150MM extension with Green Bay, but details are still trickling out about the contract. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Rodgers’ $58.3MM option bonus in 2023 can be exercised at any time between the first day of the 2023 league year and the day before the Packers’ regular season opener. This is important timing if the Packers decide to trade their franchise quarterback this offseason. Demovsky also provides details on Rodgers’ contract in 2024. The $49.25MM in salary and bonuses is only guaranteed against injury, but it will become fully guaranteed on the fifth day following the previous season’s Super Bowl.
The Steelers have pulled off another trade before today’s deadline, this time on the defensive side of the ball. Pittsburgh is acquiring cornerback William Jacksonfrom the Commanders, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). In follow-up, he tweets that a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick is heading to Washington in exchange for a conditional seventh-rounder in the same year.
Jackson, 30, had long been the subject of trade speculation. The veteran was reported to be on the lookout for a change of scenery, leading to his name being included in discussions between Washington and interested teams. In recent days, however, signs began to point to no deal materializing in time, which would have led to a different parting of ways.
Earlier today it was reported that the Commanders were prepared to release the former first-rounder in the event an acceptable deal didn’t materialize. Instead, he will now head back to the ACF North, with the Steelers picking up the remaining $2.75MM in guaranteed money on Jackson’s deal. Another two years remain on it after this season, though a move aimed at lowering his 2023 cap hit ($15.75MM) will surely be coming this offseason.
Jackson began his career with the Bengals, operating as a full-time starter for three-plus seasons. His performances there helped pave the way for his big-money deal last offseason, but things have changed quickly regarding his situation in the nation’s capital. He has gone from an every-down defender to a healthy scratch in a matter of weeks, making this move a more minor one from Washington’s perspective than his contract would suggest. The Commanders will move forward with the likes of Rachad Wildgoose, Kendall Fullerand Benjamin St-Justeheading their CB room.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will see another veteran added to their secondary. Jackson has plenty of starting experience, but could also fill a rotational role alongside AhkelloWitherspoon, Levi Wallaceand Cameron Sutton. The Steelers will provide Jackson the fresh start he was likely to receive via free agency anyway, while bringing in useful depth on their defense.
The Commanders are continuing with efforts to unload William Jackson, but if they cannot find a taker, they are prepared to move on either way.
Barring a trade, Washington intends to cut Jackson, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Jackson has not played since Week 4, when Washington benched him. The seventh-year cornerback is tied to the three-year, $40.5MM contract the team gave him in 2021.
If Washington moves on after today’s 3pm trade deadline, Jackson hits waivers. That would seem immaterial here, considering no team has — as of yet — wanted to pony up an asset to take on Jackson’s contract. It is worth speculating how much of Jackson’s $5MM base salary the Commanders are willing to take on to move him. Odds are, the team is willing to pay most of it.
The likelier scenario is the ex-Bengals first-rounder hits free agency. While Jackson’s initial crack at free agency produced an eight-figure-per-year AAV, the second stint stands to be quieter. A mid-October report indicated teams had shown interest in acquiring Jackson, but with nothing transpiring hours ahead of the deadline, potential suitors may be OK with pursuing the veteran corner in free agency. Teams are indeed waiting out the Commanders, ESPN.com’s John Keim tweets.
Jackson, who turned 30 last week, has made 64 career starts. He is viewed as a better fit for a man-based defense and excelled at points during his Cincinnati tenure. In 2020, he held quarterbacks to a collective 51.4% completion rate as the closest defender in coverage. That season provided a nice platform to a free agency payday. This season, that number spiked to 70.8% at 7.9 yards per target. Pro Football Focus rates Jackson just outside the top 90 among corners in 2022.
The Commanders have won three straight, having played ex-waiver claim Rachad Wildgoose more alongside starters Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste. The team would be hit with a whopping $13MM in dead money by cutting Jackson — assuming no team claims his contract.