The Colts needed a linebacker. D’Qwell Jackson just wanted to play for a winner.
On Thursday, everybody got their wish. Jackson, who spent his entire career with the Browns until being released last week, signed a four-year, $22 million contract to play with Indianapolis.
‘‘It wasn’t a financial decision, it was a decision to be around a good group of guys first and foremost and the chance to get to a Super Bowl,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘It wasn’t about money.’’
A chance to learn from one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in football made the decision easy, too.
The 6-foot, 240-pound, eight-year veteran who had watched Robert Mathis for years will now be paired with the perennial Pro Bowler, who set a franchise season record with 19½ sacks and won his first league sacks title in 2013 at the age of 32.
Jackson has been productive since Cleveland took him in the second round of the 2006 draft. He started 96 games, had 891 career tackles, 11½ sacks, 8 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. Last season, at age 30, he still led the Browns in tackles (143), posting his sixth 100-tackle season. He also had 1½ sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.
But he’s hoping Mathis can teach him something else.
‘‘I want to know how he found the youth somewhere. I’m excited to pick his brain. I’ve watched him throughout his glory days and he’s still having his glory days,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘I've just got a good feeling in this situation.’’
It didn’t take long for Jackson to figure out this would be a good match.
He visited Tennessee, Denver, and Miami before signing with the Colts, who guaranteed him $11 million in the deal.
After reaching the divisional round last season, Chuck Pagano’s second in Indy, the Colts are hoping Jackson can help them take an even bigger step.
‘‘The tempo, energy, and determination he plays with are right up there with the best in this league,’’ Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. ‘‘He brings a welcomed element of experience and natural leadership to our team.’’
With roughly $42 million to spend in free agency, the Colts were expected to continue improving the defense.
The Colts also released starting center Samson Satele. Indy also announced it made an exclusive rights tender to outside linebacker Cam Johnson as well as tenders to cornerback Josh Gordy and guard Joe Reitz. All three can become free agents next week, but Johnson cannot sign with another team
Bailey officially out
Champ Bailey spent a decade with the Broncos, making eight Pro Bowls and picking off 34 passes even with quarterbacks only reluctantly glancing his way.
But this number was hard to overlook: $10 million.
In a cost-cutting move Thursday, the Broncos released Bailey, the team’s defensive leader who has been a fan favorite since he was acquired in a trade with Washington in 2004.
There’s simply no room for loyalty in the NFL, especially with free agency about to start and with holes needing to be filled, something that became apparent to the Broncos after a 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl last month.
Broncos GM John Elway called the decision a difficult one given all that the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback has brought to the team over his 10 seasons in Denver.
But age and injuries had begun to catch up with one of the best shutdown cornerbacks to play the game. Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler overall, is scheduled to make around $10 million next season.
Last season was a hard one for the 35-year-old Bailey as he missed 11 games because of a nagging left foot sprain originally suffered in the preseason. Only later did Bailey reveal he sustained a Lisfranc injury.
‘‘There’s no doubt he played an integral role in establishing a culture of winning here,’’ said Broncos coach John Fox.
Reprieve for Vick?
Two people familiar with the situation say Michael Vick and the Eagles haven’t ruled out the possibility of the quarterback returning to Philadelphia.
Vick will become a free agent next week, and the four-time Pro Bowl pick has made it clear he’ll look for an opportunity to be a starter. One person said that if Vick doesn’t find the right fit elsewhere, he would consider staying in Philadelphia.
The New York Jets might be interested in giving Vick a chance to compete with Geno Smith. Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg held that position with the Eagles when Vick had the best season of his career in 2010.
Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Minnesota also could be interested in Vick, who is the class of a thin free-agent market for quarterbacks.
Browns keep Cundiff
Kicker Billy Cundiff, who was eligible to hit the free agent market, has agreed to terms on a contract extension with the Browns. After Phil Dawson left for San Francisco before last season, the Browns signed Cundiff, who made 21 of 26 field goal attempts and set a franchise record with 42 touchbacks . . . The Bears agreed to a one-year contract with defensive end Trevor Scott, who has appeared in 76 games with 18 starts over six seasons with Oakland (2008-11), New England (2012), and Tampa Bay (2013) . . . The Jaguars signed tight end Clay Harbor and offensive tackles Cameron Bradfield and Sam Young five days before Harbor and Young would have become free agents . . . The Chiefs released linebacker Robert James and tight end Dominique Jones.