According to multiple reports, the Eagles are expected to sign interior defensive lineman Malik Jackson once the free agency period begins. The contract is reported to be a three-year deal worth up to $30 million.
This is a great signing for the Birds for multiple reasons.
First, Jackson will be an upgrade over Jernigan, and he’ll be about $3 million cheaper. If the Eagles would’ve picked up Jernigan’s option for 2019, he would’ve counted for $13 million against the cap. Jackson, who’s a significantly better pass rusher than Jernigan, will count for about $10 mil against the cap. The move was a no brainer for Howie, who loves to invest in his defensive and offensive fronts.
I loved what Jernigan brought to the Eagles defense, and he will be missed, but Jackson blows him away in terms of pass rush productivity.
Jackson is just two years removed from a Pro Bowl season where he recorded eight sacks and four forced fumbles. He’s also averaged five sacks per season over the last six years; Jernigan has only reached five sacks in a season once.
Jackson will help with the loss of Michael Bennett as well, who was the Eagles most versatile d-lineman last season.
Jackson has never played in a traditional four-man front like he will be in Philly. He’s used to playing the 5-tech in a 3-4 system, which is what Bennett played as in Seattle’s defense before joining the Eagles. Bennett is an inch shorter and about 20 pounds lighter than Jackson, so it was more natural for him to move to an edge rushing position as opposed to an interior alignment. But his versatility from playing in Seattle’s defense better equipped him to move to the interior when called upon.
The Eagles are hoping Jackson can make that same type of adjustment as he transitions to playing in a four-man front. With his 6’5 290-pound frame, he’ll be lined up next to Cox for the most part and probably only move to the outside in certain packages.
Bringing in Jackson also allows the Eagles to be more flexible in their draft strategy. To me, the biggest need heading into this offseason was d-tackle. But with this signing it’s no longer the team’s biggest need.
Sure, if there’s a can’t miss defensive lineman prospect on the board when the Eagles are up, they should still take him. The need just doesn’t feel as pressing now and it’ll allow Howie to take the best player available with the 25th selection.
All in all, this signing is a win for the Eagles. They got better at d-tackle while also lowering the cap hit at that position. I can’t wait to watch Cox and Jackson wreak havoc for opposing offensive lines next season.