With the National Football League's veteran free agency period set to start on March 11, the Indianapolis Colts front office has started to make the decisions needed to retool for the 2014 season.
Former Cleveland Browns inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who had been released by Cleveland on Feb. 26, signed a reported four-year, $22 million deal with Indianapolis on Thursday. Only the first two years of the contract are guaranteed.
Jackson (6-foot, 240) started 96-of-97 games over the past eight seasons with the Browns since being selected by the team in the second round of the 2006 draft. He played collegiately at Maryland.
“We are pleased to announce the signing of inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “He is a team-first guy that has been a very consistent producer on the field.
“The tempo, energy and determination he plays with are right up there with the best in this league. He brings a welcomed element of experience and natural leadership to our team and we are excited to add him to the strong nucleus of linebackers we currently have on our roster.”
Jackson had 891 career tackles (566 solo), 11.5 sacks, 28 passes broken up, eight interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, seven fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles while playing for Cleveland. He posted six 100-tackle seasons, while leading the team on five occasions (2007-08, 2011-13).
With his addition to the Colts roster, there are now three former Browns with the team — Jackson, running back Trent Richardson and ex-Cleveland head coach Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski, who was with the Browns for the 2013 season, will be a special assistant to Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.
Jackson, who also drew interest from Tennessee and Miami, said coming to Indianapolis was a no-brainer.
“I think it’s fairly obvious. The last few years this team has been productive, and everything that’s happened within this organization, I think if you’re a fan of this game, everyone paid attention to it,” he explained during a Thursday afternoon teleconference.
“The success that’s been in this building for years, it was very important to me to make the trip. Not only that, they saw some interest and I was interested and we just married the two together and here we are.”
He admitted that the presence of Chudzinski helped foster his initial interest in the Colts.
“Once I became free and I was allowed to speak to teams, he was one of the first calls that I personally made. He’s a big part of me being here today. I thought highly of him last year when he was my head coach in Cleveland,” Jackson explained.
“He hadn’t been here for a long time but I trusted his judgment. We had a great run in Cleveland. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out, but all things happen for a reason and here we are today. I’m very excited about it and I’m excited to get going.”
Having a settled quarterback and head coach in place after several seasons of upheaval and personnel turnover in Cleveland also sparked his curiosity.
“They have a great guy under center in Andrew Luck. He’s proven in year two he’s made major steps, in my opinion, just from the outside looking in. From everything I’ve heard about him, he seems to be a sharp guy, a willing guy, and also he has the talent to get it done,” Jackson said.
“This is a team that’s on the rise. They have the pieces, obviously every team could use more pieces. But I think this is the best situation for me. I’m more than excited that they wanted to have me a part of it.”
A dinner meeting with Pagano earlier this week pretty much sealed the deal.
“Having a sit-down dinner with him, I knew right away. He was a good guy. We barely talked football. We just spoke, had dinner and we just talked about random things,” the linebacker said. “Any time you can do that, you know you’re dealing with a good guy. He’s been through a lot in his life, obviously. The guy is high on life and I want to be around people like that.”
• Angerer, Satele gone — The Colts informed veteran inside linebacker Pat Angerer Wednesday that he would not be re-signed and released starting center Samson Satele on Thursday. Neither move is considered to be a surprise.
Angerer has battled injury issues (foot, knee) the past two seasons and has never really been able to fully perform since he was initially selected in the second round of the 2010 draft. He finished his Indianapolis career with 365 total tackles (203 solo) with four forced fumbles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. The former Iowa standout had a season-best 146 total tackles in 2011.
Satele, meanwhile, struggled after taking over the starter's role in 2012. He was one of the first veteran free agents signed by Grigson after previously playing in Oakland for three seasons (2009-11). The 6-3, 300-pound offensive lineman was originally a second-round pick by Miami in the 2007 draft.
• Other roster moves — Indianapolis also made an exclusive rights tender to outside linebacker Cam Johnson while also making qualifying offers to a pair of restricted free agents, cornerback Josh Gordy and offensive guard Joe Reitz.
Johnson saw limited playing time in 2013 after arriving in Indianapolis on Sept. 2. A former seventh-round draft pick by San Francisco in 2012, he was traded for a conditional draft pick.
Both players could sign with another team but the Colts would get an opportunity to match any offers. Should they go to another team, Indianapolis would not receive any compensation since Gordy and Reitz were both undrafted free agents out of college.