by Patrick Wall
As the NFL world descends on Indianapolis for the second time in less than a month, the focus will be on the future. Prospective rookies attending the Combine shuffle in to be poked and prodded, measured and tested, interviewed and studied. But the Combine is also a place for the sport’s power players to begin wheeling and dealing.
Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman will be hearing plenty about his disgruntled star wideout DeSean Jackson. Hopefully these conversations tell him what I suspect he already knows: if winning the Super Bowl next year is really, truly, the goal, the Eagles must keep him.
Granted, this is easier said than done. Jackson, and agent Drew Rosenhaus (the man responsible for this infamous moment in Philly sports history), are asking for the type of money the Jets inexplicably gave Santonio Holmes, or around $10 million per year.
Let’s be clear: neither Jackson nor Holmes are worth that type of money. But they are similar players, and both are crucial to what their respective offenses do. When Jackson is on the field, defenses have to account for his blazing deep speed. And when he has the ball in his hands, he can take it the distance at any time. This has likely been Rosenhaus’ mantra through the negotiation process.
For the Eagles, the situation looks less rosy. After holding out during the first part of training camp, Jackson had his worst year as a pro, netting 58 catches for 916 yards and four touchdowns. While these numbers aren’t terrible, the team expects better. Despite being a threat as a punt return and runner—as a rookie he was the first player to be named the starter at two positions in the Pro Bowl—he was a virtual non-factor as a punt returner last season.
Worse than his production was his attitude. Jackson seemed to be pouting for the majority of the season, and was deactivated against the Cardinals for missing a team meeting. He was also benched against the Patriots for playing soft, dropping easy touchdowns that would’ve meant he’d take big hits.
Several news outlets have reported recently that Jackson is likely to be given the franchise tag as early as next week. This would lock him up for another year and pay him the average of the top five receivers in the game, which equals around $10 million. Jackson has said he is fine with this—proof, in this writer’s opinion, that it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.
Franchising DeSean also gives the team a few options: they can keep him for a year and potentially franchise him one more time after next season, negotiate a long-term deal, or trade him.
At this point, many fans seem ready to part with DeSean, but I’m not so sure. Money seems to be his biggest motivator. While it’s fair to wonder if he’ll pull an Albert Haynesworth and quit on the team once he gets paid, he’s worth too much to the team to let go.
Yes, there are some sexy free agent names out there, including Dwayne Bowe, Marcus Colston and Vincent Jackson, but neither have the skill set of a player like Jackson. Defenses fear Jackson, and shutting him down only means more opportunities for guys like Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Brent Celek and the always dangerous LeSean “Shady” McCoy.
With head coach Andy Reid on the hot seat, continuity is key for the 2012 Eagles. It’s why the team brought back defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and it’s why QB Michael Vick will still be leading the team. Jackson is one of Vick’s favorite weapons, and the two have an adorable “big bro/little bro” dynamic that I think is a positive forJackson’s maturity (yeah, you read that right).
So what’s he worth? Definitely not the $10 million per year he wants. But DeSean may have a hard time turning down $6 or $7 million a year with incentives and a healthy signing bonus. Overpaying for superstars isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A happy DeSean Jackson is a bonus for the team, and a productive DeSean Jackson is a nightmare for opposing defenses.
by Patrick Wall
Welcome to the dark days of the NFL.
We’re a month from free agency, almost three before the Draft, and months and months before players head to training camp. And now that most of the bad taste that was the 2011 season has been wiped from my mouth, it’s time for reflection.
Today I’d like to take some time to reflect on my 25 Bold and Occasionally Baseless) Predictions from this past season. Because I have a delicate ego, I’ll start with some of the ones I got right:
1. I totally called both #1 seeds. To be fair, it wasn’t really a tough choice. And I sure as hell didn’t see the Pack losing in the playoffs–I had them winning it all.
2. Mark Sanchez is still pretty awful. In his third season, the Jets’ signal caller did little to elevate himself from the ranks of the Joe Flaccos and Kyle Ortons of the world. Though he threw a career-high 29 touchdowns, he also threw 18 picks–two short of his rookie year. Meh.
3. Only one of the QBs to find a new home in ’11 did much of anything. Kevin Kolb might be on his way out the door in Arizona, Donovan McNabb is staring retirement in the face, and Tavaris Jackson is still Tavaris Jackson. Only Matt Hasselbeck is a lock to start the 2012 with the same team he joined a year ago.
As impressive as those three hits were, I also whiffed harder than Nnamdi Asomugha on a number of these:
1. Fine, Detroit. You’re a good team. The first prediction I made was that neither Tampa Bay nor Detroit would make the playoffs. And while the highlight of the Bucs’ year was seeing the $100 dollar man dressed like a Creamsicle, the Lions made a very impressive playoff run and look to be a team on a serious, ’06 Saints-style upswing.
2. Everything I said about the Eagles was wrong. The reports of Juan Castillo’s defense “flying around and playing nasty” were greatly exaggerated, when Michael Vick was healthy he was pretending to be Jay Cutler, and Nnamdi Asmougha was recently named the second worst tackling CB in the NFL last year. Seriously, I will throw a cheesesteak at Vince Young if I ever heard the words “Dream Team” uttered again.
3. So, uh… how ’bout those Niners? I, like many other writers, bloggers, players, pundits, cabbies and semi-educated football fans, thought the winner of the NFC West was going to be a nonfactor in the playoffs. Boy, were we all wrong. If the 49ers can get a legitimate QB, look out. They could be scary for a long time.
All told, I was right on 14 out of my 25 predictions, giving me a better record than the Eagles.
Next time, I’ll be analyzing what the Eagles must to do reach the Super Bowl next year. This, and at least three passive-aggressive jokes about Adele are all coming up in only a few days! Stay tuned!