Green Bay, at 4-4, gets a boost

Released on Monday by the New Orleans Saints after a tumultuous first half of the season, defensive tackle Grady Jackson has been awarded on waivers to the Green Bay Packers, ESPN.com has learned.

Jackson was claimed by two teams, the Packers and Carolina Panthers, on Tuesday. He was awarded to Green Bay, per waiver claim rules, because the Packers currently have the poorer record of the teams that sought him. Green Bay is 4-4, while Carolina is 6-2. No other teams placed a claim.

The Packers have been seeking for weeks to bolster a defensive front racked by injury and were interested in pursuing free-agent tackle Darrell Russell last week before he signed a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins. In fact, shortly after that deal was struck, a Green Bay personnel official phoned agent Gary Wichard to question why Russell, coming off a 1½-year suspension, had signed so quickly.

Carolina wanted Jackson to upgrade an already-deep line unit, and he would have been excellent, the Panthers felt, in a rotation with starters Brentson Buckner and Kris Jenkins.

By claiming Jackson on waivers, the Packers assume his current contract, as is. That means they must pay the prorated share of his guaranteed $1 million base salary, which comes to $470,588, based on the eight remaining games. At that price, Jackson probably is a bargain, given his skill level.

His problems with New Orleans management aside, there were some league personnel officials and scouts who told ESPN.com that Jackson was one of the top tackles in the NFL over the first half of the 2003 campaign. But the Saints decided he no longer fit into their plans following endless battles over his weight and a suspension last week for conduct detrimental to the team.

The suspension came after Jackson missed an appointment to have surgery to re-attach a torn tendon in the small finger of his left hand. Jackson then compounded the situation by breaking curfew the night before an Oct. 26 game against the Panthers.

He forfeited $58,823 of base salary because of the suspension, but is appealing. Through the years, Jackson has been fined countless times for not making his prescribed weight limit. Sources said he weighed 368 pounds when the Saints released him.

But even if some scouts consider him overweight, Jackson is a solid defender against the run and can provide some pass rush pressure up the middle. In his eight games with New Orleans this year, he had 29 tackles and 3½ sacks. For his career, Jackson has registered 284 tackles, 28 sacks and five forced fumbles during stints with the Oakland Raiders (1997-2001) and the Saints (2002-2003).

The former Knoxville College star will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of this season, unless he signs a contract extension with the Packers.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com