<
>

Former Packers veteran DT Jackson to visit Raiders

Veteran defensive tackle Grady Jackson, one of the few starting-caliber players remaining in free agency just a month before training camps open around the NFL, will visit later this week with Oakland Raiders officials as he seeks a new team for the 2006 season.

Jackson, who played for Green Bay the past three years, is coming off one of the most productive seasons of his nine-year league tenure, having started all 16 games for the Packers in 2005, when he registered a career-best 72 tackles. Despite his performance, the Packers made little effort to re-sign Jackson once he entered the unrestricted free-agent market.

In the three months of free agency to date, Jackson, 33, has met with officials and coaches from a number of franchises, including Atlanta and St. Louis, as well as Oakland earlier in the spring. The Rams probably came the closest to signing the experienced run-stuffer but opted to add free agent Jason Fisk instead. As has been the case for much of Jackson's career, some teams had questions about his weight problems.

Several franchises remain in the market for defensive tackles and, as it gets closer to camp, the interest in Jackson could increase.

The Raiders lost a pair of veteran defensive tackles, Ted Washington and Ed Jasper, in free agency and are thin at the backup positions behind projected starters Warren Sapp and Tommy Kelly. It is not known if Jackson is scheduled to undergo a physical exam in Oakland.

Even at this late stage of his career, Jackson remains an interior defender capable of clogging things up in the middle and of playing effectively against the run. He often commands double-team blocking because of his size and strength, and that allows teammates to flow more readily to the ball. His stamina appeared to be much improved in 2005, and his 16 starts were his most since 2001.

Earlier in his career, Jackson also provided some inside push in pass-rush situations, but he hasn't played on third down the last several seasons and has just two sacks in the past two campaigns.

In 123 games, including 80 starts, Jackson has recorded 431 tackles, 32 ½ sacks, nine forced fumbles, seven recoveries and 24 passes defensed.

Jackson actually began his career with the Raiders in 1997, when they made him a sixth-round draft pick from Knoxville College. He has served stints in Oakland (1997-2001), New Orleans (2002) and Green Bay (2003-05).

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.