By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
The reality had finally sunk in.
All of the pain, all of the doubt, all of the anxiety were gone. Now, there was a chance for D’Qwell Jackson to do a little celebrating, to truly enjoy the fruits of his labor.
And as he sat before the media on Monday to talk about the multiyear contract extension he had just signed with the Cleveland Browns, the veteran middle linebacker got caught up in the moment. He became overwhelmed by the thought that, after registering a career-best season in 2011 following two seasons lost to injuries, he was being rewarded for making the Browns’ patience pay off.
“I can’t thank this man enough,” Jackson said, pointing to team president Mike Holmgren, who sat off to the side. Jackson become too choked up to continue, and the news conference ended.
Strategically, the contract extension was a home run because it allowed the Browns to avoid using a franchise tag on Jackson that only would have served as a one-year solution to keeping him on the team. By tying him up with a long-term deal, the Browns can focus their attention on other players due to enter free agency and have the luxury of applying the franchise tag to one of them, if they see fit.
The deal symbolized not only the team’s commitment to one of its better players, but also its appreciation for one of the most solid individuals in the locker room.
Jackson is a quiet, steady leader. He is someone who believes in working hard and encouraging those around him, especially the younger players, to do the same. As Holmgren pointed out, that is particularly important with a young team such as a Browns.
“There’s not a finer guy on our team as a person,” Holmgren said. “And you (in the media) all know what a great player he is.”
The move makes a statement that the Browns are determined to keep the key pieces they already have in place. And there isn’t a more important one on their defense, which established itself as one of the better units in the NFL last season and has a chance to become one of the stronger ones in the league for years to come.
Additionally, the signing is proof to other players on the Browns that the team will stick with a player who is battling his way through the adversity that Jackson faced while consistently proving that, once healthy, he is extremely valuable on and off the field.
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