To re-sign, or not to re-sign. To tag, or not to tag. These are the questions we face with DeSean Jackson, one of the league’s most explosive and most frustrating players.
Let’s start by talking about the situation. DeSean has wanted a new deal for a while. The Eagles have wanted to re-sign him for a while. The two sides have talked, but the problem is that they aren’t close on numbers. Here is a nugget from the latest Paul Domowitch column:
Owner Jeff Lurie said earlier this month that the Eagles would welcome the wide receiver back, “if the right terms develop.” But league sources said Jackson’s opinion of his worth continues to be night-and-day different from the Eagles’.
This is not a case of the Eagles trying to go cheap and refusing to pay a player. Andy Reid loves DeSean and very much wants to keep him. The problem is that the Eagles, and the rest of Earth, see DeSean as a good, but flawed player. DeSean and his agent Drew Rosenhaus see the diminutive speedster as an elite weapon deserving of elite money. Adam Caplan earlier this year mentioned that the Eagles were offering in the neighborhood of $8M per year while Drew/DeSean were looking for $10M.
If the price comes down, the Eagles will gladly work out a long term deal. If the price remains $10M or so per year, that simply isn’t going to happen. DeSean isn’t worth it.
Sheil Kapadia put up an interesting post recently. He compared the top free agent WRs. One number really stood out to me. In the last 3 years, DeSean has just 4 Red Zone TDs. The other star WRs have double digit TD totals in that area. That is a huge point of consideration.
Replacing DeSean is hardly a no-brainer. He can be a special player. Defenses don’t fear other receivers the way they do DeSean. Andre Waters used to joke that Wes Hopkins had done his job just by walking out on the field, meaning that opposing receivers would be scared to cross the middle. Just Wes’s presence was a factor. DeSean is the same way. He doesn’t have to make a catch in order to significantly affect a game. That’s rare.
The downside is that DeSean is a small guy. He’s all speed. If anything happens to that, he becomes more worthless than a Jerome McDougle autograph. DeSean has concussion issues. If he gets another huge hit in the noggin, who knows how that affects him. Toughness is an issue with DeSean. In the last 2 years, he’s made a lot of “business decisions”. When in doubt, go out of bounds or get on the ground. One of the reasons to love a guy with DeSean’s speed and elusiveness is for his RAC skills. The problem is that DeSean avoids contact the way I avoid salads. You must use the middle of the field. That’s where the big plays are. His instinct is to head for the sideline. The sideline has never missed a tackle. What’s the point in having that RAC ability if you won’t run in traffic?
DeSean was a dynamic PR for a while. He had one long PR this year, but too often ran backwards. He averaged a career low 6.7 yards per PR. To be fair, teams kick away from him. As a rookie, he had 50 attempts. Then 29, 20, and just 17 in 2011. He is desperate to make something happen when he does get the ball, but his fumble vs the Bears was a huge turning point in the game. We didn’t lose because of that, but it was a major factor.
DeSean has lost the locker room for parts of both 2010 and 2011. His “business decisions” bothered other players, who were selling out to win each week. It is one thing to be cautions. It is something else when you literally avoid contact. This is football. Can’t have that. DeSean managed to get back in the good graces of his teammates, but that says something that even those guys grew tired of his act.
DeSean would love you to believe that he was nervous about taking a huge hit because of his lack of financial security. I get that mindset and there is logic to it. I just have to question if handing a guy a huge signing bonus is going to toughen him up. Normally players get a bit softer when they get money. Is DeSean going to really start crossing the middle with regularity after getting a huge deal? Maybe. Maybe not.
Two major factors hurt DeSean. First, the FA class of WRs is quite good. Teams can go with:
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Marques Colston
WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Vincent Jackson
WR Stevie Johnson
There are also guys like Robert Meachem, Pierre Garcon, and Brandon Lloyd to choose from. Wes Welker is almost certain to stay in NE. That’s a lot of quality pass catchers to choose from. You can go for big guys, small guys, young guys, proven vets.
The other factor is that there are good choices in the draft. The Eagles could move up from pick 15 to get Justin Blackmon. They could stay put at 15 and go with the speedy Kendall Wright or big guy Michael Floyd. There is another guy of possible interest. Check out these numbers:
Amazing how similar those numbers are, huh? The top set of numbers belongs to Joe Adams. The bottom set are DeSean’s numbers from Cal. Both guys are speed returners/receivers with a similar build. There is a difference. Joe is a bit more muscular and showed that this week in the Senior Bowl when he broke several tackles. He finished the game 8-133. Could the Eagles target Adams in the 2nd round to replace DeSean, who they also got in the 2nd round? Maybe.
The Eagles do have some very interesting options if they decide to replace DeSean.
Now comes the question of tagging. This is complicated. If the Eagles let DeSean just walk, they could get a Comp pick for him next year, but only if the Eagles fail to sign a big FA. I’m guessing they’ll add at least one.
The next option is to place the Franchise Tag on DeSean and then try to trade him. Sounds simple, but as we found out with Corey Simon in 2005…it isn’t. The player and agent must work with the team in order to get a deal done. The good news is that Drew is good at working out deals. He can sell his clients. Maybe he can get some offensively desperate team to give a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick to us. And the new team will have to agree to a deal with DeSean before any trade goes down.
The risk here is that if no trade partner emerges and DeSean has signed the tender, he’s on the roster for $9.5M in 2012. If he doesn’t sign the tender, you can just remove the tag and he’s a FA. This is a gamble.
The Eagles will definitely want to tag and trade him, but must find some teams that are interested. You can bet they will talk to Drew and a few teams at the Combine about DeSean. The Eagles need to know if there is a market for him or not. Using the tag ‘n trade is risky. Only do that if you really think you can get a deal done. If not, you just have to bite the bullet and let him walk.
Again, all of this can be avoided if Drew/DeSean simply lower their asking price. It doesn’t seem like that will happen, but it could simply be a negotiating tactic. You always start high. Some people come down, some don’t. There’s still time to work out a deal.
I know more than a few fans hate the thought of losing a home grown star like DeSean. He is the first top notch receiver developed by the Eagles since…Fred Barnett? Chris T. Jones was on the right path, but tore up his knee. There is a definite downside to losing DeSean. I certainly get that, as does the team. The problem is that you can’t overpay him with so many good options on the market, as well as Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy waiting for new deals.
FA starts on March 13th. Expect to hear a lot of crazy things between now and then.
* * * * *
So what is it that you guys want done with DeSean’s situation? Is anyone in favor of paying him $10M per year?
* * * * *
2 ScoutsNotebook links: