LB Jackson a logical Vikings interest

The release of LB D'Qwell Jackson has reportedly gotten the attention of the Vikings, for good reason. They have a need at middle linebacker, but will likely have to wait for other teams to talk with Jackson over the weekend.

One of the perks of being released by a team is that the rules of free agency don't apply. Such is the case with former Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who was released Wednesday.

Jackson, who was due a $4.1 million roster bonus from the Browns next month, was released and, according to CBS Sports, has set up interviews with as many as five times. One of those teams is rumored to be the Vikings.

Jackson has scheduled interviews this weekend with Denver and Tennessee – both of whom have a connection with him. Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton was the DC in Cleveland last year and Denver director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was the general manager in Cleveland when Jackson was drafted.

Jackson, 30, spent all seven seasons of his pro career with the Browns, starting 96 of the 97 games he played at inside linebacker. In that time, he has recorded 527 tackles with eight interceptions, 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

The Vikings have an opening at middle linebacker following the release of Erin Henderson last month. Middle linebacker has been a sore spot for the Vikings since the team parted ways with E.J. Henderson two years ago. In 2012, unproven Jasper Brinkley was the starter. When Brinkley became a free agent last year and signed with Arizona, the job fell to Erin Henderson, who had never played middle linebacker during his pro career.

Jackson was viewed as a leader of the defense in Cleveland and it wasn't due to a lack of production that led to him being released. It was a business decision based almost completely on money. Known for his ability to play both the run and the pass at a high level, the decision to cut Jackson wasn't an easy one, but with youngsters Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard leading the way, the seven-year veteran was released in order to free up salary cap space and avoid the $4.1 million balloon payment due Jackson in March.

Jackson has had at lead one interception in five of the last six seasons and six fumble recoveries in the last three. He has also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in the last three years – returning a fumble for a touchdown in 2011 and returning an interception for a score in 2012.

If the Vikings are on the interview list, it likely won't come until next week. The Vikings may be facing an uphill road to landing Jackson because the initial interviews are with teams with which he has some history. If Jackson's foray into his own free agency is like what it is when full-blown free agency begins in two weeks, it might be difficult for the Vikings to land him. As is often the case, teams live by the philosophy of not letting a player leave town without getting a contract done. With Denver and Tennessee both having decision-makers with a familiarity with Jackson, they may be looking to give him the hard sell and land him before he makes his other visits.

The reason Jackson gets the head start on free agency is that standard free agents won't be able to negotiate with other teams until March 8 and sign until March 11. Players who are released now become immediate free agents and are free to negotiate with other teams.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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