Rapid Reaction: Malik Jackson to Jacksonville

The Signing

You’ve probably heard that Malik Jackson signed a six year, $90 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. For perspective, the contract makes Jackson the 5th highest paid defensive player in the NFL.

The Grade – “D”

Quick… name as many defensive players as you can who are better than Jackson.

Oh wait, that’s not quick at all. In fact you could probably run a mechanical pencil out of lead before you wrote them all down. How about this: I can make a strong case that Jackson was the 4th or 5th best defensive player on his own team! I’d go with Von Miller, Aquib Talib, and Chris Harris, Jr. over him, and I think cases can be made for Danny Trevathan and Derek Wolfe as well.

The Jags grossly overpaid for Jackson. My grades are subjective, but they will follow the principle of return on investment. For those who play in daily fantasy leagues (DraftKings, FanDuel, etc.), think about it like total points divided by total salary.

It’s next to impossible that Jackson will put up top-5 defensive player production. The only thing saving Jacksonville from an “F” is the fact that their cap space rivals the economic outputs of some small countries, and they pretty much have to overpay players to get them to join.

The Most Important Opinion Here Is:

Not yours. And not mine. We could argue about this endlessly, but even if you disagree with me, you should respect one opinion above all others: the opinion of the Denver Broncos themselves.


As I wrote on Gridiron Experts, I believe that the best way to judge a player is whether a team – particularly a competently managed team like Denver – chooses to retain that player. Denver had two young, talented defensive ends in Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson, and they chose to retain Wolfe (who by the way, signed for substantially less than Jackson).

Regardless of how good we think those two players are relative to each other, Denver knows best. They saw those two play in practice every day, they saw them study film, interact with teammates and coaches, and grow from rookies into veterans.

Put another way, the best players rarely reach the market to begin with. There are exceptions, of course; but, in the long run, think about it… if a player is supposedly elite, why is he being allowed by his team to reach the open market? Why wouldn’t they pay him what he deserves, or use the franchise tag to prevent his escape? Odds are that he’s asking for significantly more than he deserves, and it’s the ‘more than he deserves’ part that is key. As we discussed, Jackson is being paid like a top-5 defender, and when he doesn’t put up that kind of production, it amounts to bad value. I do believe that you can make great value signings in free agency – a topic for another time.

Is it possible that Denver made the wrong choice? Sure. But it’s unlikely. And remember, I’m hanging my hat on value and on return on investment. If Wolfe is even 2/3 of the player that Jackson is, Denver made the right decision on who to keep. And that’s where I’d place my bet.

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Engineer by day, aspiring football writer by, well, any other time that he has.

Loves data-driven, analytical approaches to NFL analysis.

Also loves pizza, gin, and taking co-ed sports too seriously.
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