Tyson Jackson isn't exactly a fan favorite in Atlanta. Jackson, 29, signed with the Falcons prior to the 2014 season, and along with Paul Soliai, he was expected to come in and help establish a front that was tough against the run. That certainly didn't happen in 2014, though the run defense in Atlanta was much improved in 2015.
A third-overall pick in 2009, Jackson spent his career with the Kansas City Chiefs until being signed by Atlanta. With the Chiefs, with better defensive talent around him, Jackson ate up double teams and allowed teammates to make plays. Jackson had nine career sacks and 10 pass deflections over his time in Kansas City. His 2014 season with the Falcons was inconsequential. Jackson contributed 10 solo tackles and 12 assists, along with three pass deflections, over the course of the 2014 season.
2015 season in review
When Dan Quinn arrived in Atlanta, Jackson was asked to slim down to better fit the new defensive scheme and to be prepared to do what was needed to succeed in Atlanta. Jackson started 12 games for the Falcons last season and played in all 16 games. Jackson, like the rest of the Falcons defense, seemed to be at least marginally improved in the new scheme.
Jackson had 14 solo tackles and 17 assists in 2015. Pro Football Focus credits him with 7 quarterback hurries and zero missed tackles last season. He's a serviceable player. He's not great, and he's not terrible. Fans' issues with Jackson, while connected to his performance on the field, are more generally centered around his contract situation.
When he arrived in Atlanta, Jackson signed a five-year, $25 million contract with $11 million guaranteed. He's entering the third year of that deal.
Jackson carries a $6.35 million cap hit this season, and if the team chooses to part ways with him, they'll be on the hook for $4.8 million in dead cap. It's more likely Jackson would be a post-June 1 cut, which would reduce that dead cap number to $1.6 million, per Spotrac.com.
Jackson simply isn't playing up to his contract, and his productivity wouldn't be difficult to replace or even exceed.
The team could choose to re-sign Adrian Clayborn, a move I hope they make, and give Clayborn more opportunities on the field. Clayborn showed flashes of being disruptive last season, and with more time on the field, could be an upgrade. Malliciah Goodman and Kroy Biermann are the other options currently on the depth chart to assume Jackson's starting role. They may also choose to look to the draft or free agency to fill Jackson's role as well.
If the team decides to keep Jackson, they would probably be better off transitioning him to more of a rotational player, but under his current contract, that seems a little silly. It's more likely Jackson will be a post-June 1 cut and the team will move on from a player who was serviceable, but certainly not impactful enough to justify his contract.