Bills cornerback Dane Jackson takes balanced approach as he enters free agency


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This is a guy we need to keep

Buffalo Bills cornerback Dane Jackson has learned to never feel complacent in any aspect of the game. It’s an approach that will help him with whatever comes next.

“I just learned you can never think you made it,” Jackson said. “There is always the next thing. Something else is always coming. You’ve just got to be prepared for it, so just having that mindset is helping me out a lot.”

The 2024 NFL offseason has begun. Here is a primer for the next few months.

The last few seasons, the Bills have rotated at cornerback, both impacted by not having Tre’Davious White for stretches at a time.

Two years ago, Jackson started 14 of the 15 games he played. This past season, he started six games while playing in 15. Even with a smaller role on defense – down from 82% of defensive snaps to 50% – Jackson never lost sight of the big picture. Instead, he kept listening to his veteran teammates on the defense about preparing like he would had he been a starter. Jackson thinks that’s where he learned the most about himself this past year.

“Just taking it all in from the OGs, and just letting them pour into me and staying ready,” Jackson said. “Because times get tough when you ain’t out there on the field. And we all know everybody wants to be out there playing, but guys are playing well – guys are playing very well out there. So, you kind of got to take the backseat and just be ready when your number’s called.”

Jackson is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but he’s trying to maintain his usual offseason routines. He entered last offseason as a restricted free agent, and the Bills tendered him in March. This year, the day after the Bills’ season ended, he said he would have a consistent approach to the next few weeks.

“Same way I do every one,” Jackson said in January. “Keep working, keep grinding, and I don’t know what the future holds, but we’re gonna see. Take it day by day.”

For Jackson, that means returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh for the bulk of the offseason, but also mixing in some much-needed travel.

A few weeks later at Super Bowl week, Jackson reiterated that he wasn’t spending too much time thinking about the future. At this point in the offseason, he was still giving himself space to reflect.

“I was talking to someone earlier, just telling them like, you’ve kind of got to take a step back,” Jackson said. “A lot of ups and downs, a lot of struggling times that we had during the season, but all the good times, too. There were a lot of good times in the season, as well. If you don’t take a step back after the season, you’re going to lose yourself. Kind of just taking a step back, taking it day by day, and just continue to work.”

Jackson and safety Damar Hamlin were in Las Vegas together as part of the Bounty ultimate wingman campaign. The two have known each other since they were kids and have been close friends since their University of Pittsburgh days. When Hamlin gets asked about Jackson, he immediately lights up.

“Man, I love that question. That’s probably my favorite question of the day, because Dane has had a unique journey and to be able to get to see it and know it inside and out, it’s a beautiful thing,” Hamlin said. “He’s real independent. He has world-class character, world-class morals. He stands on who he is, and he stayed true to what made him, him.”

Jackson is a former seventh-round pick, but Buffalo coaches and teammates trusted him, and year after year, he wound up on the field in some capacity. For him, the bond is mutual, no matter what happens this offseason.

“I’ll love Buffalo forever. It’s a forever love for me, because they gave me a chance,” Jackson said last week. “A lot of other coaches might not have believed in me, they didn’t want to take a chance on me or whatever it may be, so big shout-out to Buffalo for giving me the opportunity. It’s forever love.”