The Denver Broncos haven’t been able to come up with an offer that Malik Jackson is happy with so far, which means the defensive lineman is hitting free agency, where the Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars will try to sign him.
Jackson, 26, is coming off a fantastic season and even better playoff. A 3-4 defensive end who can also play defensive tackle in a 4-3, he had 5.5 sacks last season and 14.5 over the last three seasons. The Broncos offered him somewhere between $11 million to $12 million a season while keeping Von Miller with the franchise tag and offering Brock Osweiler $39 million over three seasons. Jackson wants more than that, thinking more about the money Muhammad Wilkerson is making ($15 million a season).
Is anyone going to offer him that much? He wants to see if the market can bring up the price to that. The Jaguars have plenty of cap space, more than anyone in the NFL (around $80 million), but tend to struggle when it comes to attracting top end free agents or even willing to spend that much. The Broncos are nowhere close to that although can rework deals and release players (Peyton Manning going is a big help), but the Bears and Raiders are all with plenty of cap space to spend on guys like Jackson.
Both the Raiders and the Bears have coaching connections to Jackson: John Fox is the head coach of the Bears, but coached the Broncos from 2012 through 2014. Jack Del Rio, the head coach of the Raiders, was the defensive coordinator on the Broncos during that same time. And as we mentioned, defensive systems don’t matter a whole lot to Jackson, who can play as a defensive end in both the 4-3 and 3-4, or a defensive tackle in the 4-3.
It’s a hard time keeping the important assets together for the Broncos coming off their Super Bowl season, but that’s to be expected. Jackson didn’t make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro and isn’t a popular name like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and others on one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in recent years, but his ability in the postseason and throughout the 2016 season, playing in all 16 games for the third consecutive year, has launched him to be one of the more prominent names and guys to go after in this free agency period.
Jackson was a fifth round selection by the Broncos in 2012, coming out of Tennessee. He didn’t play at all in his rookie year, and started in all 16 games for the first time in 2015, when Gary Kubiak took over as head coach and Wade Phillips became the defensive coordinator.