Saints spent big to sign undrafted Idaho returns ace Jermaine Jackson

NFL teams tell you how they value players by their actions, and most importantly how they spend their money. With the 2024 NFL draft behind us the New Orleans Saints entered a fierce bidding war with other teams for the rookies whose names were not called during the draft. And one of their first pickups was a costly one: Idaho Vandals wide receiver/return man Jermaine Jackson.

Jackson is listed at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds so he’s cut from the same cloth as other Saints returns specialists like Rashid Shaheed and Deonte Harty. While he received just a $10,000 signing bonus to come to New Orleans, Jackson is also getting $150,000 of his base salary guaranteed, per KTIK 95.3 FM’s John Mallory. That’s significant. For context, Shaheed was guaranteed $222,000 when he signed with the Saints out of Weber State.

So why is he so special? There aren’t many players in college football with 600-plus return yards on both punts (604) and kickoffs (666), as well as four return touchdowns (three off of punts, one off of a kickoff). That production comes from a combination of instincts, athleticism, and hard work to cultivate them.

And why do the Saints value special teams so highly? Their coordinator Darren Rizzi was integral to developing new kickoff rules for 2024, which make it more favorable for teams to roster multiple returns specialist. He’s always scouted returners heavily. Some of them have hit like Shaheed and Harty. Others fell off like Marquez Callaway and last year’s undrafted rookie Malik Flowers. This year’s second round pick Kool-Aid McKinstry returned  punts at Alabama (35 times, for 427 yards) and said he’s open to helping in the return game if he’s needed.

But Jackson isn’t limited to work on special teams. Over the last two years he caught a combined 107 passes for 1,645 yards with 6 touchdowns as part of Idaho’s one-two punch at wide receiver. It’ll be fascinating to see whether Jackson can overcome the size mismatch with a very talented group of Saints cornerbacks over the summer but he was consistently productive at Idaho. But clearly the team has high expectations for him. All he needs to do is back them up.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire