DENVER — Age and salary conspired to make Kareem Jackson a casualty on Monday.
The Broncos declined to exercise the $1.5 million contract option on his $11 million salary, making him a free agent. General Manager George Paton indicated earlier this month he wanted Jackson back, but acknowledged he was working through issues with the strong safety's agent.
Translation: The Broncos wanted to restructure Jackson's deal. That never gained traction.
Jackson told Denver7 Monday night the possibility of returning to the Broncos is "not entirely closed."
Moving on from Jackson, for now, creates $7 million in salary cap space as the Broncos look to address needs at defensive line, quarterback and possibly edge rusher if Von Miller's $7 million contract option is not exercised Tuesday.
Paton is trying to identify the best mid-level price fits as he reshapes the roster — not interested in bidding wars. For instance, the Broncos expressed interest in free agent Leonard Floyd, but had a price in mind, and walked away when the price skyrocketed, resulting in a four-year, $64 million deal with the Rams.
Jackson, who turns 33, next month can take offers from other teams.
The Broncos have had their share of free agent misses over the past few years, but Jackson was not one of them. He posted 155 tackles with three interceptions in 29 games. He also brought an edge to the defense with his physical style. He practically won games against the Chargers and Texans with his vicious hits.
Jackson earned the respect of coaches and teammates alike. A leader on and off the field, Jackson was a sounding board for many players. Now, he begins fielding new offers.
With Jackson a free agent, the Broncos will have to add a safety either in free agency or early in the draft. There is no in-house replacement.
Lindsay's future in doubt
In other news, the Broncos placed an original round tender on restricted free agent Phillip Lindsay. This increases the chances he departs as a free agent because there is no draft pick compensation attached. The Broncos can match any offer he receives, but there is no guarantee they will.
The issue with Lindsay, a two-time, 1,000-yard rusher and a one-time Pro Bowler, is the fit moving forward in coordinator Pat Shurmur's offense.
If Lindsay is not involved in the passing game — and he was not last season — there is no role with Melvin Gordon used as the bellcow back and receiver on third downs. The Broncos are expected to place second-round tenders on receiver Tim Patrick and linebacker Alexander Johnson.