INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Colts needed a linebacker. D'Qwell Jackson just wanted to play for a winner.
On Thursday, everybody got their wish. Jackson, who spent his entire career with Cleveland until being released last week, signed a four-year, $22 million contract to play with Indianapolis.
"It wasn't a financial decision, it was a decision to be around a good group of guys first and foremost and the chance to get to a Super Bowl," Jackson said. "It wasn't about money."
A chance to learn from one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in football made the decision easy, too.
The 6-foot, 240-pound, eight-year veteran who had watched Robert Mathis for years will now be paired with the perennial Pro Bowler, who set a franchise single season record with 19½ sacks and won his first league sacks title in 2013 at the age of 32.
Jackson has been productive since Cleveland drafted took him in the second round of the 2006 draft. He started 96 games, had 891 career tackles, 11½ sacks, eight interceptions, seven fumble recoveries and one touchdown. Last season, at age 30, he still led the Browns in tackles (143), posting his sixth 100-tackle season. He also had 1½ sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.
But he's hoping Mathis can teach him something else.
"I want to know how he found the youth somewhere. I'm excited to pick his brain. I've watched him throughout his glory days and he's still having his glory days," Jackson said. "I've just got a good feeling in this situation."
He's not the only one excited about the move, which comes five days before the full free-agent market opens.
"The Colts defense needs new members to turn up the bluheat.....maybe we should take a ride down 5200 Jackson Street," Mathis wrote Wednesday on Twitter, before the official announcement was made.
It didn't take long for Jackson to figure out this would be a good match.
He visited Tennessee, Denver and Miami before signing with the Colts, who guaranteed him $11 million in the deal. In Indy, he is reunited with running back Trent Richardson and new Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski.
A year ago, Jackson and Richardson were projected to be starters under Chudzinski, then the Browns first-year head coach. Richardson was traded to the Colts in September for a first-round draft pick. Chudzinski was hired as a special assistant to coach Chuck Pagano last month.
Jackson now gets a chance to play for a team coming off two straight playoff appearances and with an organization that has reached the postseason in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
After reaching the divisional round last season, Pagano's second in Indy, the Colts are hoping Jackson can help them take an even bigger step.
"The tempo, energy and determination he plays with are right up there with the best in this league," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement released by the team. "He brings a welcomed element of experience and natural leadership to our team."
With roughly $42 million to spend in free agency, the Colts were expected to continue improving the defense.
At times last season, the Colts defense played well. At others, it really struggled.
Adding Jackson may not give Indy the big pass-rushing presence to complement Mathis, but it should help shore up a position where four players could leave in free agency — Pat Angerer, Kavell Conner, Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Sidbury. Angerer, Lutrus and Sidbury all finished last season on injured reserve.
But Jackson came to Indy for one reason: To win.
"The last few years this team has been productive and the success has been building for years," Jackson said, acknowledging he was willing to restructure his contract in Cleveland and left with no ill feelings toward his former team. "But this is a business. It didn't work out and I have a ton of respect for what they're doing in Cleveland, but now I'm an Indianapolis Colt."
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