Malik Jackson, a key player on the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl 50-winning defense, is headed to Jacksonville to play for the Jaguars, sources tell 9NEWS.
The defensive end has reached an agreement on a six-year, $90 million contract that will make him the NFL’s fourth highest-paid defensive lineman -- fifth highest defensive player overall -- based on annual average over the first three, four and five years of a long-term deal.
Jackson's deal is for $85.5 million over six years. He can also make an additional $4.5 million in playing time incentives in the last three years of his deal.
The framework of the deal was negotiated late Monday night by Jackson’s agent Jack Scharf and Jacksonville executive John Idzik. The contract is expected to be executed shortly after the NFL free-agent market officially opens at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Broncos, Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders were also bidding for Jackson during the free-agent tampering period that opened Monday. The Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins were among the other teams that also expressed interest.
A big reason why Jacksonville won the Jackson sweepstakes: He is receiving $45 million in the first three years of the deal with $42 million of that fully guaranteed against skill, injury and salary cap. Jackson's three-year average of $15 million surpasses the $14.8 million three-year average Tampa Bay gave defensive lineman Gerald McCoy two years ago.
Only defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, J.J. Watt and Marcel Dareus, and outside linebacker Justin Houston are higher paid than Jackson.
This will be the third consecutive year, the Broncos have lost a prominent player to the Jaguars via free agency. Following the team’s Super Bowl 48 appearance to finish the 2013 season, Broncos left guard Zane Beadles signed a five-year, $30-million contract with Jacksonville. (Beadles was released last week after collecting $12 million in two seasons).
Last year, tight end Julius Thomas received a five-year, $46-million contract with the Jaguars.
And now, Jax is getting Jack. The Broncos, meanwhile, are left with the sobering reality that keeping the best defense in franchise history will not be the same in 2016.
Besides losing Jackson, the Broncos are expected to lose starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to free agency. There is hope DeMarcus Ware will return at a reduced salary, although it’s possible the pass-rushing outside linebacker may find a better deal elsewhere.
Jackson was one of the most astute draft picks made by John Elway, who is beginning his sixth season as the Broncos’ general manager. A product of the University of Tennessee, Jackson wasn’t selected until the fifth round of the 2012 draft. In the next round, Elway took Trevathan.
Jackson received limited playing time as a rookie, but came up with a 6.0 sacks and six pass deflections in 2013 while playing defensive tackle in the Broncos’ 4-3 defense.
He slumped some in 2014 while playing within the constraints defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, but Jackson roared to his best season in 2015 while operating within the aggressive style used by new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Working as a 3-4 defensive end instead of a 4-3 tackle, Jackson was an inside penetrating force, compiling 21 quarterback hurries,16 quarterback hits, seven pass deflections and 5.5 sacks.
The Broncos attempted to re-sign Jackson prior to the free-agent tampering period with an offer in the $11 million to $12 million a year range, but they ultimately discovered Jacksonville’s enormous cap space was too much to overcome.
The Jaguars entered free agency with an NFL-most $82.2 million in cap space while the Broncos ranked 30th with an estimated $8.6 million.