CLEVELAND — When he hit free agency, Malik Jackson had a short list of teams the veteran defensive tackle considered signing with. All of them had to fit one requirement.
They had to be a Super Bowl contender. The Browns were a match.
Jackson, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Cleveland last week, thinks Jadeveon Clowney might want to follow him to Cleveland.
“It’s one of those things that the team speaks for itself and what we’re trying to build speaks for itself,” Jackson said when asked on a Zoom interview what he would tell Clowney if he could recruit him to the Browns. “So if you want to hop on board, come hop on board.
“I understand the free agency market isn’t what he probably wants, but things are bigger than monetary value and you get a chance to be on a good team and set yourself up for the future.”
Clowney visited the Browns last week, renewing a courtship that began last year when Cleveland offered him a long-term contract before he signed with Tennessee for one season. The Browns are now looking at Clowney again, but it’s a different view after he didn’t have a sack and missed eight games because of a knee injury and surgery in 2020.
Clowney left without signing a contract, and the Browns are still believed to be interested in him.
And while the 31-year-old Jackson may not have Clowney’s resume, he’s excited about joining a team with Super Bowl aspirations after Cleveland ended its postseason drought and won a playoff game last year before losing to Kansas City.
Jackson, who spent the past two seasons in Philadelphia, won a Super Bowl with Denver in 2015. He said if that’s what the Browns want to do, then that has to be their goal from the outset.
“I think the day after the Super Bowl, if you’re not saying my team’s going to the Super Bowl next year, then you’re wrong,” he said. “I think you have to put yourself in the mindset of being great and expecting to be great. And let things fall where they may after now 17 weeks.
“I don’t think it’s bad to ever have expectations, I think it makes you work harder and it puts expectations on you that you want to meet. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Jackson was one of several defensive free agent signings by the Browns. He’ll give them depth, experience and leadership. He was slowed the past few seasons by a serious foot injury, but has healed physically and mentally.
“I am way more comfortable, a lot stronger and there are no more mental roadblocks of having a foot injury,” he said. “I feel like I am just going to come back and feel a lot more confident.”
Cleveland’s young roster is loaded with talent, but needed an infusion of players who know what it takes to win.
That’s where Jackson, safety John Johnson III and Troy Hill come in — to take the Browns another step further.
“You have to have guys who know what is happening. What is your mindset?” Jackson said. “What do you have to think about? Where not to go. How not to think too far forward. I think knowledge of the unknown is a big key.
“The team went far last year so I am hoping I am just a little bit of a push to help them go even farther and that way my knowledge deep in the playoffs can really shine.”
Jackson’s deep into his career and knows he’s running out of seasons. He wanted to go somewhere and contribute, but more importantly, he wanted to play with a team he felt had a legitimate chance of winning it all.
Cleveland checked his boxes.
“I did not want to go anywhere that was trying to rebuild,” he said. “I wanted to go somewhere with a consistent team, somewhere I could come in and not have to be the guy and I could just be a supporting role and have opportunities to fight for a job starting and third downs.
“That is all I could ask for.”