Colts release linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, marks new GM Chris Ballard’s first cut

D'Qwell Jackson #52 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a tackle during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Aller/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The first major personnel move by Indianapolis Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard wasn’t a major surprise.

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was released Thursday. He had led the team in tackles in each of his three seasons, including last season when he missed the final four games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy.

“D’Qwell is a consummate professional,’’ Coach Chuck Pagano said in a team release. “The way he approaches the game is second to none. His leadership and mentorship provided a valuable example for the younger players on this team.’’

Along with coming off the four-game suspension, Jackson was fighting Father Time. He’s 33 and part of an aging defense that must get younger.

By cutting Jackson, the Colts freed up $5.5 million under the 2017 salary cap. He still counts a modest $250,000 in so-called “dead money.’’

Jackson was one of former general manager Ryan Grigson’s more productive free-agent acquisitions. He signed a four-year, $22 million contract that included $11 million in guarantees during the 2014 offseason.

Jackson led the Colts with 81 tackles last season, 193 in ’15 and 184 in ’14. He also contributed eight sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.

Before signing with the Colts, Jackson spent his first eight seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

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