At one time, it seemed far more likely than not the Detroit Lions would sign left guard Jonah Jackson to a multi-year deal as he headed into the final year of his rookie contract. He went to a Pro Bowl in his second season (2021), originally selected as an alternate, and he followed with another good season in 2022-albeit while missing four games.
The injury issue multiplied this season. Jackson first missed three games with a high ankle sprain, followed by two missed games with a wrist issue. Finally, he missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury he suffered in the Divisional Round.
Jackson also did not play very well this season. Over 798 snaps, he allowed 24 pressures, two sacks, eight quarterbacks hits and 14 hurries (according to Pro Football Focus). His pass blocking grade somehow improved a little over 2022 though (62.7, from 53.0), but his run blocking grade tanked to 58.2 after being over 70.0 the previous two years.
Jackson could command $10 million per year on the open market, though PFF's contract projection for him in December was down in the $7 million range. Regardless, if Jackson can get $10 million a year or close to it he should take it and the Lions would be right in hesitating to pay him that.
2024 NFL Free Agency: PFF projects a couple landing spots for Jonah Jackson
Brad Spielberger of PFF has offered some potential landing spots for top free agent offensive lineman. The core idea is if someone leaves their current team, where might they land?
Spielberger has two potential landing spots for Jackson-the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Injuries have ravaged Carolina's guards over the past few years — particularly at left guard this past season — but they nonetheless earned the worst grade at the position in the NFL in 2023 (37.6). New general manager Dan Morgan said at his introductory press conference that he wanted “dogs” on this reshaped roster, and Jonah Jackson could be the tone-setting mauler at left guard who fits the bill."
"The Buccaneers could add a nasty second-level run blocker alongside maybe the best pass protector in the NFL in Tristan Wirfs, who has already adjusted nicely to the blindside after moving across the line ahead of the 2023 season."
If he can stay on the field, Jackson would be an upgrade at left guard for a lot of teams. It's hard to see the Lions getting involved in any kind of real bidding war though, with pivot options in free agency and what looks like a deep draft class at guard.
What once looked like a formality Jackson would be signed to a multi-year deal to stay in Detroit is now very much up in the air, and where he is for the Lions on the list of priorities when it comes to internal free agents is uncertain.