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.