Commanders Insider Has Odds on Whether William Jackson ‘Still Has Good Football Left’

William Jackson III

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images William Jackson III of the Washington Commanders breaks up a pass intended for CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys on October 2, 2022.

On Nov. 1 the Pittsburgh Steelers consummated a low-risk trade with the Washington Commanders, acquiring former Cincinnati Bengals 1st-round pick William Jackson III and a conditional 2025 7th-round pick in exchange for a conditional 2025 6th-round pick.

Most Steelers fans are aware that the organization is said to have preferred Jackson over Artie Burns in the 2016 NFL Draft, except the Bengals selected him one pick before the Steelers had a chance to grab him at No. 25 overall. With Jackson gone, the Steelers drafted Burns, who showed flashes as a rookie but tailed off badly after that and has since continued his career with the Bears and now the Seahawks.

Meanwhile, Jackson mostly flourished in five seasons with the Bengals, which explains why the Commanders elected to sign him to a three-year, $40.25 million contract in free agency in March 2021. But he did not flourish during the season-and-a-half spent with Washington, hence the trade.

Some have likened the acquisition of Jackson to the free agent signing of cornerback Joe Haden in 2017, but that seems disrespectful to Haden, who, for five seasons, stabilized Pittsburgh’s secondary. Certainly the Steelers have been unable to adjust in his absence. As I noted in Jan. 2022, the Steelers were 20-6-1 in games in which Haden was in the lineup in 2020-21, but just 1-7 when he was out due to illness or injury.


‘Not a Lot of Great Film’ in Washington

So what are the Steelers potentially getting in William Jackson? Shortly after the trade was consummated, Washington Commanders insider JP Finlay of 106.7 The Fan appeared on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with Andrew Fillipponi of The PM Team and discussed how Jackson fell out of favor in Washington.

“Big picture, Jackson never really was a hit here,” began Finlay. “He is a man-press corner; Washington doesn’t do a ton of that, and he’s dealt with some injuries while he’s been here.”

But things didn’t really go awry until this year, during Washington’s Week 2 loss at Detroit.

“Jackson had an awful game and he had one really visible bad mistake … one of the easier touchdowns in the NFL. There were real frustrations among the coaching staff after that,” offered Finlay, before noting: “The following week he was benched at home. (Then) they let him start (again) and it started going bad again and they pulled him and he never got back on the field.”

But Jackson has talent, or at least he did two years ago. Finlay took care to remind listeners that Jackson was considered one of the top cornerbacks on the market in free agency in 2021.

Yet there was “not a lot of great film” during his time in Washington. “A lot of penalties, really hands-y, especially when he gets down the field. But if you go back and watch the Cincy stuff it was good.”

Finlay bottom-lined his analysis by saying: “I’d give it a 50% chance that this is a dude that still has good football left and (the Steelers) will get something out of him.”


Pittsburgh’s Financial Obligations to William Jackson

Notably, there isn’t a lot of financial risk if they don’t. According to overthecap.com, Jackson is earning a $5 million salary this year and is scheduled to be paid a $9.25 million salary next year, with a $12.75 million total cap hit. But all the responsibility for the dead money remains with Washington, so if he fails to make the team in 2023 the Steelers would not be charged any of the $12.75 million.

Jackson, who turned 30 on Oct. 27, has appeared in 75 career games, with 64 starts. He has 205 career tackles with five interceptions, 51 passes defensed and one sack, as per Pro Football Reference.

Jackson will try to shore up a Steelers pass defense that has allowed a league high 17 touchdown passes this season, with its top 3 cornerbacks all missing at least one game due to injury.

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