Eddie Jackson's Release from the Bears Wasn't About the Money

Vince Carbonneau
May 25, 2024  (10:30)

Eddie Jackson in action with the Bears
Photo credit: Forbes

Beyond the Money: The Real Reasons for Eddie Jackson's Release

The Chicago Bears faced a tough decision in cutting Eddie Jackson, a standout player for seven years. Jackson's All-Pro performance in 2018 was one of the best by a safety in the city's history. However, after a less impressive 2023 season, the Bears decided to part ways with the 30-year-old, largely due to his hefty contract. Jackson was set to earn over $14 million this year, which many experts believed was too much for his recent performance.
Yet, the financial aspect was only part of the story. The real motivation behind Jackson's release was rooted in the Bears' strategic direction. New safety Kevin Byard shed light on the situation, suggesting that head coach Matt Eberflus and the coaching staff had been eager to change their defensive approach. They wanted to maximize Jaquan Brisker's potential by involving him more in coverage, rather than restricting him to box safety duties. This need for versatility was a driving force behind signing Byard.
Byard elaborated, "Yeah, just his versatility. I think, that's one thing I like about playing with him because I know a little bit of last year was kind of like BoJack was kind of in the back or whatever and he (Brisker) was kind of in the box. I don't want to see that this year at least for us early on. Just kind of work it, hey, let's be versatile. I don't want teams to get a bead on ‘hey, you're in the box or I'm deep' or anything like that. Let's both do the same things so teams can't really get a bead on what the coverage is. He's been really good with that. He's vocal like I am about wanting the details with different coverages with the coaches and stuff like that. I mean, it's just I think that's what the league is now. You want guys to be versatile. And like I said, I think it's a lot for just for quarterbacks and things like that. Like, as you watch film, teams are looking for any type of keys or clues to tell what type of defense these guys are going to run. So we don't want to be able to give that away. We want to be able to be versatile and try to make it hard for offenses."
Eddie Jackson's departure wasn't unprecedented for Eberflus. In Indianapolis, he faced a similar situation with Malik Hooker, a 1st round pick who excelled as a deep cover safety but struggled near the line of scrimmage. By 2020, Eberflus transitioned to a more versatile safety duo with Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon, which helped propel the Colts to the #8 defense in the league.
The concept of versatile safeties is a cornerstone of the Tampa-2 defense, requiring players to excel both deep and close to the line. This strategy was successfully implemented with duos like John Lynch and Dexter Jackson in Tampa Bay, and Daniel Manning and Chris Harris in Chicago. More recently, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer in Buffalo exemplified this versatility. Eberflus is banking on Byard to bring the same adaptability to the Bears' defense, something Eddie Jackson couldn't offer. Jackson's limitations against the run and diminishing turnover production ultimately made his release inevitable.
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MAY 25   |   71 ANSWERS
Eddie Jackson's Release from the Bears Wasn't About the Money

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