Malik Jackson wasn’t a heralded prospect coming out of Tennessee in 2012. All 32 NFL teams passed on him until the fifth round, when the Denver Broncos selected him.
The defensive tackle played very little in his rookie season, but then became a steady contributor in 2013-2014 when he started a total of eight games. Then, this past season, he started all 16 for the NFL’s No. 1 defense, helping Denver to a Super Bowl ring.
Jackson was a big component of that unit, getting 5½ sacks, being in on 46 tackles, knocking down seven passes and forcing two fumbles.
After the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory over Carolina, in which Jackson had a strong game (including a recovered fumble for a touchdown), he told the NFL Network that he was proud to be part of a defense he contends might be one of the best in league history.
“There hasn’t been a defense like that in a long time,” said Jackson.
Yet Jackson is a pending unrestricted free agent, and he said it’s just “50-50” that he’ll be able to work out a deal with the Broncos to remain a part of that defense. He’d like to stay but knows it will be a business decision.
“That’s what makes it so hard, because you want to get paid,” he told the NFL Network. “That’s your dream, to get paid and take care of your family. But you still want to win, too.”
Should the Broncos decide to let Jackson walk, it’s possible that he could wind up in Oakland.
The Raiders have plenty of money under the salary cap to make several big moves and his former defensive coordinator in Denver, Jack Del Rio, is now the Raiders’ head coach.
Recently, Troy E. Renck, who covers the Broncos for the Denver Post, wrote that the Broncos will have to spend big money this offseason if they want to retain several key free agents, and that might mean they’ll have to part ways with Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan,
“Jackson and Trevathan represent two of (John) Elway’s best draft choices, insanely productive late-round picks,” wrote Renck. “Jackson will command top dollar with plenty of suitors, quite possibly the Raiders who have millions to spend.”
The Broncos' loss certainly would be the Raiders' gain in what could be a very competitive AFC West in 2016.