August 26, 2014

Cleveland Browns say farewell to their leader, release D’Qwell Jackson

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Once upon a time I thought that D’Qwell Jackson was going to be cut by Joe Banner for financial reasons. Now it appears that the financial reasons were good enough for Ray Farmer as well. Mary Kay Cabot reports that the Browns have said goodbye to the team’s long-tenured linebacker and leader after eight seasons with the team.

“We had positive discussion with D’Qwell and his agent over the last several days, and we came to the mutual agreement to go in different directions,” said Browns general manager Ray Farmer. “D’Qwell is the epitome of class, leadership and professionalism. Every day of his NFL career, D’Qwell has been a solid representative of the Browns and the City of Cleveland, both between the lines on Sundays and off the field in our area community. We want to thank him for his eight years of service and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

Earlier in the off-season, Jackson said he’d be “shocked” if he wasn’t back. Shortly after Mike Pettine was hired, we discussed Jackson’s future and the linebacker position for the Browns in general.

D’Qwell Jackson, the team’s current middle linebacker and captain, is owed a lot of money this year. If they cut him, it will add about $4.2 million in dead money to the books, but if they keep him, it will cost them over $8 million.

So go ahead and add that $4.2 million in dead money to the more than $6.5 million that was accelerated onto the cap with the trade of Trent Richardson. Make no mistake though, beyond  the cap ramifications, this will save the team cash. It saves them enough that they can pay a huge portion of the 2014 NFL draftees.

The lesson? Even on a team with financial flexibility for days as the Browns have with their cap situation, teams don’t like to spend inefficiently between what a guy’s contract pays him versus what his performance is worth on the field. That gap widened too much for the respected D’Qwell Jackson to keep his roster spot with the Cleveland Browns.

“To the people of Cleveland and Browns fans everywhere: Eight years ago I began a journey that blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization and community,” said Jackson. “I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for opening your arms and hearts to my family and me, and for making Cleveland an easy place to love and call home. It’s been an honor playing in front of you.

“I also would like to thank the Browns players, coaches and staff for their tireless work and commitment.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all and will always carry you with me.”

While painful, I think it’s a good move for the team. As much as I love D’Qwell Jackson as a human and as a player, he’s never risen to the level of stardom that dominant defenses need from their middle linebackers. Jackson is a solid player and a likable guy, but I’ve long felt having him as the field leader put something of a ceiling on how good the defense could become.

It’s a sad day for Browns fans in many ways, but it seemed inevitable.

[Related: Reign On Spotlight Player of the Week: D’Qwell Jackson]

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Sad to see him go, but hopefully he gets a chance on a contender. Agree with you on the salary cap ramifications vs production at this point in his career. Credit to Ray Farmer as well to have the guts to make a tough decision right out the gate.

  • RGB

    And they’re off!

  • MrCleaveland

    A Machine Shop of Sadness over this, but we’ve got to trust Farmer on this. (We would have probably crucified Banner if he had done it.)

    But this is the great thing about how the NFL salary structure works. In football, you actually have to earn your salary. Football teams don’t get saddled with terrible contracts anywhere near the extent that teams in baseball and the game of basketball do.

    Can we assume that the Browns didn’t even offer to restructure? Might this still happen?

  • RGB

    Open spot for Bart Scott? :/

  • mgbode

    I would assume the Browns did offer to restructure but DQ thinks he can get a better offer elsewhere. That’s just completely conjecture though based on how these things tend to work (if team wanted him gone, then they likely low-balled on that offer).

    Regardless, DQ has suffered amongst us for many years. I hope he finds a soft landing spot with one of his many former coaches that are sprinkled throughout the NFL now.

  • Jason Hurley

    According to the statement issued it sounds like they tried to restructure, but inevitably, Jackson didn’t want to. These things happen, especially in football. Onwards.

  • MrCleaveland

    Check out the photo again. Maybe DQ couldn’t hula hoop worth a damn.

  • Kardiac Kid

    A competent GM (hope that is you, Ray Farmer!) can find 1.5 sacks and 140 tackles 5 yards down the field in this draft … for about 5% of what the Browns would have paid Jackson. Smart move.

  • D’qwell :(

    I don’t pretend to understand the NFL salary cap, but I can’t understand why they’re keeping Kruger and dumping Jackson. I think they have similar contracts and Jackson was far superior to Kruger on the field. Plus what message does it send to the players when you cut your leader… We better go crazy with extensions and Free agency.

  • Kildawg

    Think this was a poor move, but the Browns do save about $5.25M, however they have almost $11M in dead money (likely using last year’s cap space to cover it). Maybe doubling down on ILB early in draft is a real possibility with Khalil Mack (top 10) and CJ Moseley projected in the first 36 picks.

  • RGB

    Carnac says…Chris Borland.

  • mgbode

    He’s the only one in the photo wearing sleaves, so he was deemed to weak for Pettine.

    http://images.mstarz.com/data/images/full/19118/stone-cold-steve-austin.jpg

  • CB Everett

    Oh. Sweet. Lord. This can only mean one thing: That Banner has somehow infiltrated the mind of poor Farmer. And he’s now some kind of Manchurian Candidate doing the bidding of Bannermetrics! We’re so doomed.

    Seriously, as much as I like Dqwell…it was a smart business decision. Good luck to you buddy. Next man up…

  • markn95

    I’ve liked D’Qwell ever since he sat in on Rizzo’s show every Tuesday (the players off day) years ago. He came off as a class act and no one–literally, no one–connected with the Browns or the media has ever dispelled that notion. He also deserves credit for overcoming two back-to-back season-ending injuries.
    Like everyone else said, though, this just makes way too much football sense. He was wasted as an ILB in the Browns’ various 3-4 schemes, and apparently Pettine (unlike Mangini and Ray Horton) decided to cut bait. That $8M is a hard cap number to swallow, especially when we’ll probably be replacing the other starting ILB and have no depth at the position either.

    Obviously, ILB will be shooting up to the top of Browns needs once FA and Draft talk heat up. Based on the post-D’Qwell roster, I’d like to see the Browns pick up at least one ILB in the Draft and another in FA. Ideally, both would push Robertson to the bench.

  • dwhit110

    Because Kruger has so many years still left on his deal, there’s a lot more dead money that would count against the cap for longer if they chose to let him go.

  • dwhit110

    Borland would be a good use of our first 3rd rounder.

  • REEPJP

    I like Borland or Shayne Skov from Stanford

  • Mike P

    I think you wait and get a guy like Max Bullough and Prince Shembo in the draft. You could probably land them in the 4th and 5th respectively, and I think it would be a huge upgrade over what we have. I think Donald Butler and Brandon Spikes are two other FA’s you could get on a good deal

  • WFNY_DP

    I really would have liked to have seen what he could have done without being stuck in a BAD 3-4 for the Romeo years, when his size really hampered his play (and the fact that no one on those DLs could command a double-team). I always wondered if the injuries were a result of that. He probably lost his “prime” years (2009-2010) to injury with those pectoral tears.

    Best of luck, DQ.

  • WFNY_DP

    No to Spikes. I don’t care if he’s the second coming of Mike Singletary; I want no part of a guy who reaches into other people’s helmets and tries to gouge out their eyes.

  • WFNY_DP

    As long as we don’t try to make Skov a full-time FB. #BadStanfordDraftPickHistory

  • Mike P

    At least he’s passionate?
    I could care less about stuff like that, Id probably swing my helmet at guy who was taking my knees out or trying to grab my privates on the bottom of a dog pile haha.
    Not saying that happened, but I could see why someone would do it.

  • WFNY_DP

    I dunno. I think you can be passionate without being a total punk. Just MHO.

  • Harv 21

    nice

  • mgbode
  • Mike P

    He’s playing football? Who cares? He’s not solving the mysteries of the universe. And that was in college, his collection of dirty NFL plays falls on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Play hard and tough, we need those guys on our D in Cleveland. And Ryan Fitzpatrick sucks. He should worry about winning games not whether or not someone hit him too hard.

  • Harv 21

    Sad to see a decent guy like this go, but will always think of him as one of the Cleveland fans’ overrated pro athletes. He’s steady and competent, but very far from league elite, regardless of his stats in number of tackles. Not close to the level of former Browns like Clay Matthews, Chip Banks or, imo, even Mike Johnson.

    When players sign these contracts they surely know it’s unlikely they’ll see balloon payments down the road, which is why the cat fights in negotiations are over the guaranteed money. Read DQ’s comments today, and think everyone’s right. For the player asked to take a pay cut when has diminishing numbers of NFL snaps left in his body, there’s no reason for him to bet that Pettine, as opposed to a more stable organization, will give him meaningful football games in the time he has left. For the team, they can get a younger version way cheaper. The temporary leadership vacuum is fixable and the result of poor drafting mistakes by past regimes. Bad NFL teams cannot become good while paying 30 year old LBs for past performance.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    question becomes who is the replacement. i smell buff ufa arthur moats and that’s fine i guess.

    i still hate to see more holes created. DQ was surely overpaid and overrated but seems like they couldve restructured and kept him. but hey, i always liked tank carder would be nice to give him more of a test drive. max bullough in the draft might be something. this is probably fine.

  • mgbode

    Ryan Fitzpatrick sucks

    to be fair, Spikes is not exactly a pro-bowl player himself.

  • Mike P

    Where’s my eye roll button!!!! Hahaha.
    I don’t think Pro Bowl votes is an indicator of football aptitude. But hell, what do I know?

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Spikes ranked sixth among all NFL inside linebackers in 2013. His grade of 11.6 in run defense was the highest of any player at his position in the league.(pre-injury)

  • Harv 21

    “I definitely would’ve stayed if they would’ve payed the $4.0 million bonus,”
    Jackson said.
    http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2014/02/former_cleveland_brown_lb_dqwe.html
    Crystal clear the amount he demanded right now in exchange for betting on Pettine. He has a right to name his price, given his ticking clock and exasperation. Farmer has a right to say the hole Jackson leaves is just not that deep, smarter to reserve cash toward bonuses for pay Mack, Ward, Haden and/or others. No villains or heroes here, “It’s just business, Sonny.”

  • mgbode

    I agree he can be a good run-stuffer, but he is worse in space than our ILBers were last year and that is not a good thing at all.

    He’s not the type of ILB that I’d want in this NFL-age.

  • WFNY_DP

    Overheard in Berea: “We have newspaper people on the payroll, don’t we Tom? They might like a story like that.”

  • JJ23

    Is this what happens when you can only come up with 3 things to do with a paper clip?

  • Mike P

    Perry Riley’s more natural position is OLB.
    I think in today’s NFL (and I may be crazy, you can tell me), is that, especially in a 3-4 D, there should not be any reason not to have 2 different ILB’s with different skill sets. Its almost impossible to find a guy who can both stop the run and pass at a high rate (Hello London Fletcher).

    But these guys are good at one thing. Find yourself a run stopper, find yourself a guy who can drop back and cover the middle of the field.

  • mgbode

    if you cannot find both skillsets in a player, then you might as well find one I suppose.

    but, I think the NFL is moving more towards really athletic guys that would have been OLB in the past moving inside (guys like Mack and Barr being considered to move inside for instance despite high draft status). also, the ILB slots on alot of defenses will stunt-rush the QB more, which is another reason for the shift.

    we’ll see, but hopefully we address the issue (for all of our sakes).