Bears Release Eddie Jackson; Would He Fit With Packers?

The Chicago Bears released two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson on Thursday. The Green Bay Packers have an enormous need at safety.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Chicago Bears released two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson on Thursday, turning loose an impact player at a position in which the Green Bay Packers are starved for impact players.

Or, are Jackson’s impact days behind him?

“He’s just a name,” a high-ranking personnel executive said via text. “Has lost his speed and athleticism and is not interested in being physical.”

Jackson, who turned 30 in December, was one of the best playmakers in the NFL. As a rookie fourth-round pick in 2017, he had two interceptions and scored two defensive touchdowns. In 2018, he earned Pro Bowl honors with six interceptions, 15 passes defensed and three defensive touchdowns (two pick-sixes). In 2019, he was a Pro Bowler again with two interceptions.

After going two full seasons without an interception, Jackson had a bounce-back season with four interceptions in 2022. In 2023, Jackson had one interception and five passes defensed.

Injuries and age are a factor in the diminished performance. He’s missed five games each of the last two seasons due to foot injuries.

The Bears released him to get out of the rest of a four-year, $58.4 million contract extension signed in January 2020. He was due a base salary of $14.05 million in 2024.

The Packers no doubt will be at least slightly interested given their situation at safety. Only two players who are under contract in 2024 played at least one defensive snap in 2023. Seventh-round rookie Anthony Johnson had one interception and three passes defensed in 303 snaps but had the worst missed-tackle rate in the NFL. Undrafted rookie Benny Sapp played three snaps on defense.

Darnell Savage, Jonathan Owens and Rudy Ford are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Combined, they played 1,959 defensive snaps in 2023.

Of their combined two interceptions and 10 passes defensed, Ford had both interceptions and six passes defensed.

Savage, who was All-Rookie as a first-round pick in 2019, had zero interceptions and only one breakup while limited to 10 games and 50.2 percent playing time in 2023. He had a pick-six in the playoff win at Dallas but was at least partially responsible for a long touchdown catch by George Kittle and a long touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey in the playoff loss at San Francisco.

“I think he’s a fine safety net,” the executive said of Jackson. “You probably end up with more competent but still below-average play,” he said.

Safety will take on a new level of importance under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. At Boston College, his defenses played a lot of Cover-1 and Cover-3 rather than the Cover-2-heavy looks of former coordinator Joe Barry. That means the deep safety has to cover a lot of ground – that probably would be Jackson – while the other safety has to have a blend of coverage ability and run-support toughness.

For the Bears last season, 494 of his 646 defensive snaps came at free safety, according to Pro Football Focus.

“He’d fit in with any team as a deep safety sort,” Gene Chamberlain of SI.com’s Bear Digest said. “He played in the Cover-2 style the last two years but the first five years he was in a 3-4 base defense that played a lot of Cover-3 as well as Cover-2. The thing is, he isn’t the best tackler in the world.”

No, he’s not. PFF charged Jackson with seven missed tackles (15.6 percent). Compare that to 12 misses (18.5 percent) for Savage, nine misses (28.1 percent) for Johnson, seven misses (9.2 percent) for Owens and six misses (8.1 percent) for Ford.

“He may rebound on a one-year (contract),” the executive said, “but he’s out of his prime.”

Not that it matters, but the Packers struck gold by signing Adrian Amos away from Chicago in free agency in 2019. What does matter is the Bears will have more salary-cap space than the Packers and better draft positioning than the Packers to upgrade their safety situation. Chicago will be looking for a sidekick to Jaquan Brisker.

Gideon Canice

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