The Browns released starting inside linebacker and defensive captain D'Qwell Jackson today, the team announced.
Although Jackson was the undisputed leader of the team, the move is not surprising because he would have carried a $9.43 million salary-cap figure next season, which included a $4 million roster bonus due March 16 and a $100,000 workout bonus.
In December, Jackson discussed his contract situation with reporters and said he would be “absolutely” shocked if he didn't return to the Browns next season. Jackson, 30, said he would be open to restructuring his deal. The Browns tried to restructure the contract, but the two sides couldn't reach an agreement and decided to part ways.
“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," new Browns General Manager Ray Farmer said in a statement. "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.”
Inside linebacker now ascends to near the top of the franchise's list of needs it must address this offseason. Cutting Jackson creates a significant void. He played all but one defensive snap last season, called the plays in the huddle and led the team with 143 tackles.
The other starting inside linebacker, Craig Robertson, 26, is an exclusive-rights free agent and can only hit the open market if the Browns don’t extend him an offer. Regardless, Robertson struggled last season.
Jackson spent the past eight seasons with the Browns, who selected him in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He has played 97 games with 96 starts, compiling 891 career tackles, 11½ sacks, eight interceptions, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.
"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," Jackson, who was the longest-tenured Browns player before his release, said in a statement. "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."
Jackson missed 26 consecutive games from 2009-10 after suffering torn pectoral muscles. However, he made a remarkable comeback in 2011, and former General Manager Tom Heckert and ex-President Mike Holmgren rewarded him with a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension in February 2012.
Jackson is now a free agent and may sign with any team.
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