Texans claim Kareem Jackson off waivers from Broncos, who had hoped to re-sign him

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Published
Dec. 27, 2023 10:36 a.m. ET

Kareem Jackson is returning to his roots after the Houston Texans claimed the hard-hitting safety off waivers from the Denver Broncos on Tuesday.

The Broncos (7-8) were hoping he’d clear waivers so they could re-sign their locker room leader and tone-setter to the practice squad. That way, they didn’t have to expose another player to the waiver wire and risk losing him. Plus, they’d have been able to elevate Jackson to the active roster for games.

Instead, he’s back with the Texans (8-7), who drafted him 20th overall out of Alabama in 2010.

“H Town……. I’mmm Baaaack,” Jackson said on social media Tuesday.

Jackson played cornerback for nine seasons with Houston before moving to safety when he joined the Broncos in free agency in 2019.

As a converted cornerback, Jackson’s 5-foot-10, 183-pound frame puts him on the smaller size for NFL safeties, something he has compensated for with a hard-hitting style that often produces hits that used to be celebrated but are now frowned upon.

He got in trouble in 2023 when he repeatedly ran afoul of the league’s rules designed to keep players safe with a series of illegal hits early in the season, three of which put opponents in the concussion protocol. The results included several fines, two ejections and two suspensions totaling six games.

He’s forfeited game checks totaling $839,000 and was fined a total of $89,670, although the league rescinded his largest fine — $43,709 for an unflagged hit on Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco in October.

Jackson signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract late in free agency last spring and lost his starting job to Caden Sterns in training camp. But he resumed his starting role when Sterns suffered a season-ending leg injury in the Broncos’ opener.

After missing seven of Denver’s past eight games, he wasn’t going to nudge safety PJ Locke from the starting job like he did when he returned from his first suspension, which was cut in half to two games.

His first tackle in his return to action resulted in his second four-game banishment, which the NFL upheld on appeal.

Jackson returned to practice last week but the Broncos kept him on the exempt list. He missed Denver’s game against the Patriots on Sunday night and was released on Christmas Day with the understanding he’d return to the Broncos when he cleared waivers.

Instead, the Texans claimed him and placed safety Jimmie Ward on injured reserve.

Although he’s played in only one game since Oct. 22, Jackson told The Associated Press last week that he was in great cardiovascular condition, having worked out diligently during his banishment from team headquarters, and he said returning to the field was like getting back on a bicycle.

“You don’t forget,” Jackson said. “I mean, you haven’t rode a bike in how long? I’m sure you can get on one today and ride it from here to the stadium if you have to.”

Jackson was granted an audience with Commissioner Roger Goodell during his second suspension as he sought advice on how to quit running afoul of the league’s rules designed to keep players safe. He said Goodell said it was his job to keep opponents safe, something he said was near impossible for a safety trying to keep himself healthy and make plays as the last line of defense.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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