Malik Jackson was one of the plums on the free agent market just three years ago, coming off a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos and signing a six-year contract with the Jaguars that was supposed to pay him $80 million during that span.
It didn’t quite work that way. After three seasons in Jacksonville, Jackson was released last Friday.
It’s not like he is rotten fruit at this point. He did, after all, post 18 sacks in three seasons with the Jaguars.
The Eagles thought enough of him to pounce quickly, signing the defensive tackle to a three-year, $30 million contract just three days after his release. On Wednesday, Jackson met with reporters at the Eagles’ team facility in South Philly.
He met the media wearing his high school letterman jacket, albeit one that had to be specially made after he said he lost his first one.
“I wanted to wear it to show the kids hopefully back in my high school area that they can be up here, too, and make their dreams come true,” said Jackson. “This is to show I’m relatable.”
The Eagles are getting what appears to be a solid individual off the field.
He was Jacksonville’s nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2017 and was selected as the club’s 2017 and 2018 nominee for the Salute to Service Award for demonstrating an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
On the field, the Eagles are getting a 6-5, 290-pound player noted for his durability and ability to pressure the quarterback.
He has appeared in 106 consecutive regular-season games, marking the second-longest active streak by an NFL defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh’s 115.
Since 2015, Jackson ranks ninth among the league’s defensive tackles in sacks (23) and tackles for loss (36) and has posted the second-most passes defended with 15.
“I see myself coming in here just helping,” said Jackson. “It’s not like Jacksonville for me where I have to come in, be the guy, hoorah, do this, do that, I’m coming into a team that already has the leaders. And with Fletcher Cox next to me, it should allow me to open up and have more one-on-one rushes. He’s a force to be reckoned with, he demands double teams, so hopefully I can come in there and do what I’m supposed to do and take the double teams off him. It goes hand in hand.”
Playing with Cox as well as the rest of the Eagles defensive line was a big factor in Jackson’s decision to come to Philly.
“To go somewhere that had a good D line because I want to get back to where I know I can be and do that I need good D linemen around me,” said Jackson, who is 29. “To come in here with these four guys – (Derek) Barnett, (Brandon) Graham, and Fletcher – I mean, hell, I don’t think there’s a better D line in the league, so it was important for me to come and use my talents and have one-on-one opportunities.”
Jackson, however, was benched midway through last season. He was having a down year from his 2017 production with the Jaguars, who went to the AFC Championship Game that season and probably should have represented the AFC against the Eagles in the Super Bowl that season, but frittered away a lead to the New England Patriots.
That season, Jackson ended with eight sacks and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. Last year, he had 3.5.
“My main goal is just to get back to where I know I can be,” said Jackson. “Last year was very disappointing. I learned a lot about the business of the NFL. For me, it’s just getting back to where I know I’m supposed to be. Being who I know I am, and showing the rest of the nation who I am.
“That Pro Bowl wasn’t a spoof, or hiccup or whatever you want to call it. That’s who I am. I’m going to make sure I’m getting back to that. So having Fletcher next to me will push me, like Calais (Campbell) did. He’s exactly what I want to be - the first-rounder coming here, four-time Pro Bowler, future Hall of Famer, so hell, the example is right in front of my face.”
Jackson said the production dip had to do with his benching.
What led to his benching?
He said the Jaguars told him he wasn’t playing well against the run.
“I’m not the coach, I just played,” he said. “I think I play good against the run to be honest with you. But like I said, I just play, so it’s up to them to make the decisions.
“(It was) very frustrating. It’s the first time it ever happened, so I think you can understand I was not happy at all. But I went in there and I still tried to go to work. I didn’t try to be the guy that’s cursing out everybody or walking around mad, which is hard. It hurt a lot.
“I thought I was part of the culture changing, and to get benched for younger guys, and guys who aren’t drafted, hurts. But it’s a business, and once you understand that, you’ll be better for it. I never been injured, so yeah, personally, that’s the toughest thing I had to go through.”
He, and certainly the Eagles, is hoping there are very few tough times ahead over these next three seasons.