Jeff McLane is reporting that the Eagles will definitely place the Franchise Tag on DeSean Jackson. This really isn’t surprising news. Sam and I have written about the subject a few times in the past month. Here is Sam’s great post. The question now becomes…what is the point of the tag…to avoid losing him or to be able to trade him?
Andy Reid wants DeSean Jackson back. He really does. He wants to pay him good money. The problem is that he and the Eagles are reportedly $2M per year off from what DeSean and Drew Rosenhaus want per year. That’s a significant difference. I don’t think the Eagles have given up on a deal, but I think they expect to have to trade him at this point.
Why not just pay him? The Eagles have negotiations coming up with LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin in the near future. They can’t just write a blank check to the most erratic of the trio. The counter argument is that if the Eagles let DeSean walk and then replace him with an outsider, the team will have to pay that guy big bucks. True. But the new player will be bigger and will be more of a red zone threat. And that is a huge, huge factor.
The Eagles Red Zone offense has been an issue for a few years. DeSean sometimes is a good decoy down there, but that’s not enough for a player who you pay close to $10M per season. The NFL is a league based on 3rd downs and the Red Zone. That’s not DeSean. He’s not a clutch guy you can force the ball to on 3rd/5. DeSean is the guy who delivers the big play on 1st down. He gets you chunks of yardage. He does a great job of that, but the Eagles have had success over the years with a variety of guys in this role: Todd Pinkston, Donte Stallworth, and even Reggie Brown. All 3 were among league leaders in yards per catch during at least one season for the Eagles. Brown is surprising, but back in 2006 he was 46-816-8 (17.7 ypc). He was a good downfield receiver.
Maclin has enough speed to be the vertical threat for the Eagles. He’s shown the ability to get deep and make plays down the field. Now understand that I’m not comparing Maclin or the other guys to DeSean. He’s special when it comes to speed and stretching defenses. DeSean is literally one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen. He’s a freak. No one is going to replace him exactly. The key is that a guy like Maclin could take the role and handle it. He’d be less dynamic, but would be better in some ways (size, hands, route running).
If the Eagles thought paying DeSean would bring out the best in him and that he would live up to his true potential, they might just do it. But when a player has been mentally and emotionally erratic for 2 years because he wanted a big deal…I don’t think you can count on him to be Jerry Rice when you hand him a $10M signing bonus. I don’t blame DeSean for being frustrated, but he let that follow him onto the field more than he should have. How’s he going to react when he finally does get the big money? Will he suddenly be tougher? Will he embrace running over the middle of the field? Maybe, but I sure wouldn’t count on it. Money tends to make people relax.
A trade seems to be the most likely outcome. Some other team, that lacks offensive weapons, will be willing to take a chance on DeSean. You saw what the Falcons did to get Julio Jones last April. Their offense needed a key piece and they rolled the dice in a big way. There are plenty of teams around the league that are desperate for a deep threat. I don’t know if anyone will pay DeSean exactly what he wants, but they’ll pay more than us. I’m sure the Eagles will ask for a 2nd round pick as compensation, but more likely we’ll get a 3rd round pick. Teams don’t like to give up high picks and big bucks to a player. Plus, there are several FAs to choose from and a deep group of WRs in the draft. Most FAs are bigger type recievers, which is what we’re looking for. Teams looking for speed will be looking at DeSean or prospects like Kendall Wright and Joe Adams.
Maybe DeSean and Drew lower their asking price and something gets worked out. Just seems unlikely at this point. They have consistently wanted a certain price. The Eagles have consistently offered something else. And do understand that the sides have talked. This isn’t the Eagles letting the guy leave with no effort. Andy really does like DeSean and would love to keep him. Just don’t want to pay his asking price.
* * * * *
Someone asked yesterday about why the Eagles even keep a FB. Is that a waste of a roster space? Why not get creative?
The position of FB is getting phased out of college and pro football thanks to the spread offense. 3 and 4 WR sets are more common than the I-formation. The Colts have played a season without a true FB on the roster. Might be another team that did it as well. Why not the Eagles?
FB isn’t important in terms of volume, but is important situationally. Think about when you do need a FB. 3rd/1. 1st/Goal. Those are impact plays. Having a FB, or other lead blocker, is essential. In those situations, the defense is in a short yardage alignment. Defenders attack gaps and try to penetrate. You need a FB to pick off anyone that does get through. If the line keeps the backfield clean, then the FB still has the critical role of sealing the defender at the point of attack or executing a kick out block.
You could get another RB or possibly TE to fill this role, but the problem is that you won’t know how the player will handle it until the regular season. Goal line plays in practice, training camp, and preseason games are nothing like the real deal. When it is 3rd/Goal from the 1-yard line in the 4th Qtr of a division game, you need to know your lead blocker can get the job done.
Owen Schmitt isn’t Moose Johnston, but Shady did run for 17 TDs. Schmitt and Shady had a good thing going down the stretch. Schmitt knew who to block and did a good job on them. Shady knew how to read the blocks and get into the endzone. Don’t just assume anyone could have filled that role of Schmitt’s.
Clay Harbor has some FB potential and could play there in an emergency, but I don’t think you want to count on him in critical situations. Maybe he turns out great, but maybe he hesitates. Shady runs into his back and gets stuffed. The Eagles lose. The Mayans are right and the world ends. Are you happy?
While it would be great to free up a roster spot and eliminate someone who is just a FB, you do need a reliable, functional lead blocker. Don’t just assume anyone 6’0-6’2, 240-260 can handle the role. It would be interesting to see if Harbor could pull that off, but I’m not in favor of that experiment in what is such a critical season.
* * * * *
Just some Quick Hits-Draft Talk in the most recent post at ScoutsNotebook. I’m juggling things right now. I’ve been re-watching the Senior Bowl to study every prospect on every play. I’ve been watching other teams/players. I’m also working in some FA study. So much to do, so little time.