The six-year veteran is a solid enough player and was very productive last season, most agree, but not a difference-maker.
And for a guy who will bank close to $17 million in the first two years of the extension, he's somewhat suspect physically, having suffered two pectoral injuries that limited him to just six appearances total in 2009-2010.
The contract spiral in general at the inside linebacker position has been justifiably puzzling to some people.
In general, inside linebackers, no matter the scheme, are two-down defenders. Sure, there are guys like Patrick Willis and Jerod Mayo who break the mold, but teams clearly are overspending on some guys who are merely run-stuffers.
Jackson had a nice season in 2011, with 3.5 sacks and four passes defensed to go along with 158 tackles, but he's still not regarded as special. The next couple middle linebackers to cash in probably will be Curtis Lofton of Atlanta and Detroit's Stephen Tulloch, whether they go elsewhere or re-sign with their incumbent clubs, but it's not that difficult, some personnel guys insist, to find two-down defenders.
The Falcons value Lofton because of his smarts and because he is a guy with good football instincts who gets everyone lined up in the right place. One has to wonder – and, trust us, some in the Atlanta organization agree – just how high the price tag should be for a player of Lofton's ilk.
Although he often played on third down last season, Lofton is deficient in coverage. Still, his numbers are pretty commensurate to those of Jackson, so someone may overpay for him.
When he is officially cut loose, Ward, who has said he wants to continue his career in 2012, may find it somewhat difficult to find a home.
One league personnel director whose franchise has been rumored to be interested in Ward pointed out to The Sports Xchange on Thursday evening that the Steelers star's 8.3-yard average per catch in 2011 was the lowest in the league for a wide receiver with at least 40 receptions.
The next lowest was Jacksonville's Mike Thomas, who with a 9.4-yard average (on 44 catches) was more than a full yard better. The official made an interesting point: Ward had five receptions in the season finale victory at Cleveland, a total that got him to 1,000 for his career.
But the official noted that the achievement might have cost him a roster spot. He suggested that, were Ward shy of the 1,000-reception mark, the Steelers might have been more inclined to bring him back for 2012.
We don't agree, and neither do the Pittsburgh officials to whom we spoke, but it's an interesting take on Ward's bittersweet milestone.
By the way, to the people who have opined that Ward is a lock for the Hall of Fame, a couple statistical factoids: Of the seven wide receivers who have 1,000 or more catches in their careers, Ward has the lowest yards per reception (12.1) of any of them. And his average is well below that of any of the seven Hall of Fame wide receivers whose careers began after 1970.
So what's the big deal, especially given that Hixon has suffered ACL injuries to his right knee each of the past two seasons, and has appeared in just 16 games (two starts) since the end of the 2009 campaign?
Just this: The Giants, who demonstrated this season that they can develop receivers – in the wake of the Super Bowl victory, does anyone remember the angst over the departures of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss last year now? – feel that Hixon can still be a productive No. 3 (No. 4 at worst) wide receiver for them.
Hixon is most noted in some circles as a return man, but despite the knee injuries he still retains some sneaky deep speed. And in 2009, starting in just seven of 16 appearances, he had 43 catches.
That's four more receptions than Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, all but assured to depart in free agency, registered for the 2011 campaign.
Yeah, Hixon has some of the same inconsistencies of Manningham, but will cost a lot less and, if he can stay healthy, should provide a viable backup to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. And the Giants' staff still has hopes for second-year veteran Jerrel Jernigan, a third-rounder in 2011.