Eddie Jackson

Matt Eberflus reveals what he's looking for in new starting safety

The Bears released Eddie Jackson earlier this month, so they'll need to find a new partner for Jaquan Brisker

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Bears had several holes on their roster the moment the 2023 regular season ended, and they created one more when they cut safety Eddie Jackson earlier this month. Jackson was both a ballhawking free safety who ranged the back of the defense and a leader who made sure everyone in the secondary knew their responsibilities on the field.

At the outset of the NFL Combine on Tuesday, head coach Matt Eberflus explained what he’s looking for as the team looks to replace both Jackson the player and Jackson the leader. First and foremost, Eberflus said the team needs a guy who complements strong safety Jaquan Brisker, so that Brisker can keep doing what he’s doing.

"(Brisker) comes down, bangs tight ends. He's a big hammer,” Eberflus said. “The guy that we would be looking for has to have athletic ability, he's got to have range, he's got to have great communication skills, he's got to have ball skills. We want all of our guys to have the ability to take the ball away. He's to have that too.”

When healthy, Jackson is one of the premier takeaway artists in the NFL. Over his first three seasons, Jackson intercepted 10 passes, recovered five fumbles and forced four more. He scored a whopping five defensive touchdowns. A variety of scheme changes and ailments have slowed him down at times, but Jackson enjoyed a resurgence in 2022 in Eberflus’ defense with four picks and two forced fumbles.

Jackson also developed into one of the most respected veteran leaders in the locker room since 2022. After the team traded away Robert Quinn, Jackson was named a team captain– an honor he retained in 2023. No matter if the team replaces Jackson with a rookie or a veteran, Eberflus expects the replacement to eventually fill that void, too.

“If it's a free agent, he is gonna have to feel the temperature of the room and then dive into the leadership role. If he's a rookie, then he's gonna have to develop with the other guys."

Over the last season and a half, Jackson has been affected by a nagging foot injury. That foot injury, plus the money Jackson was set to make next year, might have been the only two relevant factors in GM Ryan Poles’ decision to release Jackson. According to Spotrac, Jackson was due to cost the Bears over $18 million against the cap in 2024, and the team reportedly saved over $12.5 million by letting him go.

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