One of the most polarizing athletes in this city, reports of a potential DeSean Jackson trade received a largely negative reaction across the board. Of course, many would be disappointed to see a fan favorite and one of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL shipped out by the Philadelphia Eagles. Even folks who are okay with it though mostly had to balk at the idea of only getting a third-round pick back.
The fact is if Jackson does get moved this offseason, there was probably more to this story than meets the eye. In Jimmy Kempski’s original report for Philly.com—the story that started all of the speculation—one of the keys is what’s going on behind the scenes. Jackson’s attitude in the locker room, battles with coaches, and other issues we simply may not be privy to seem to be the driving forces at this point in time.
If the Eagles dump Jackson because he’s stirring the pot, I’m not sure anybody can blame them. Still, the discount price is a shock to the system, and people are having trouble understanding why the team would even consider such a low offer. Are they better off trying to gut it out with Jackson?
Maybe, maybe not. I’ve been back and forth over this issue since the news broke and can see both sides of the coin. There are perfectly good reasons to cut a deal now, and perfectly good reasons against it. Weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself what you think is really the right move.
From offseason hobbies that include producing rap videos and stunt-diving into his pool, to jawing with opponents and bickering with coaches and teammates on the football field, there is no denying Jackson tends to make headlines for the wrong reasons.
In fairness, most of Jackson’s prima donna behavior is harmless. In fact, he’s never been in legal trouble of any kind and does a ton of charity work. However, it says a lot that his Philadelphia home was robbed in January, and all fans and reporters can seem to do is suggest it somehow reflects negatively on him.
The real issue though is Jackson’s ability to become a malcontent at any given time. He was caught in a public dispute with his wide receivers coach against the Minnesota Vikings last season, and Kempski notes that’s not out of the ordinary. It’s not just this coaching staff he’s clashed with, either. In 2011, Andy Reid benched Jackson for a game for missing a meeting. These types of actions can’t be overlooked, and seem to be the main motivators for a trade.
At first, I was a little taken aback like everybody else by reports that a third-round pick might be as high as teams are willing to go for Jackson—and that the Eagles would actually consider this no less. If that’s all they can get in return, why not at least wait and see if something better eventually comes along?
Then I remembered that this is an especially deep draft. If the Eagles can either get a third-round pick this year or next year, you would absolutely want them to have it in ’14.
A record number of underclassmen have entered the talent pool, so the chances of finding a starting-caliber player in the third are better than most drafts. If the Birds could finagle another mid-round pick in the trade too—say the fifth they shipped away for Darren Sproles—they could wind up with a couple quality players, whereas next year, maybe not so much.
Avoid certain contract squabble
While Jackson’s stated desire for a renegotiated contract was blown out of proportion, and the receiver denied any problems would arise in year three of the five-year deal he signed, it could certainly become a battleground down the road. As much as fans won’t like to hear it, he does have a point about there being no more guaranteed money in the current pact, a commitment he rightfully feels he’s earned.
It’s not entirely uncommon for parties to review contracts with two-years remaining in the NFL, so Jackson will want to talk for sure next offseason, particularly if he continues to produce. The problem is the Eagles probably aren’t excited about the prospect of extending a player who will be 30 when his current deal is scheduled to be up.
If the front office is still unwilling to do something for Jackson next year, you can bet your ass he’s going to make some noise at that point. Remember how he acted in 2011? Yeah, the team screwed him over then, and you could argue they would be screwing him over now. Regardless, do you want to deal with that again in ’15 while this team is trying to make a Super Bowl run?
Eagles ensure they get something in return
The Eagles could wait and see how things go with Jackson and trade him down the road if things aren’t working out for whatever reason, but that plan could also backfire. What if he gets injured or his play declines?
Worse, what if Jackson has a meltdown over his contract situation in the meantime and reduces his value even further? Or worse yet, the situation becomes so untenable, the Eagles would have to cut him anyway if they can’t make a swap, so potential suitors decide to wait it out and they get nothing in return?
By getting a deal done right now, this offseason, the Eagles would ensure that at least they got something back on their investment before things go downhill. Considering the player we are talking about, you have to agree it a strong possibility.
Loss of highly-productive player
The most clear-cut drawback to trading DeSean Jackson is, well, the Eagles would no longer have DeSean Jackson, a 27-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler.
I’m honestly not sure if everybody in this fan base fully appreciates what this guy does on the football field. Since Jackson came into the league in 2008, he is one of only nine wide receivers with at least 350 receptions, 6,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. Think about that for a moment. Statistically, he’s a top-10 receiver.
Aside from the numbers, Jackson forces opponents to account for his speed. When defenses are essentially double-covering No. 10 or pushing their safeties 20 yards deep at the snap, that creates a domino effect that opens up space for LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and the rest of the offense. Clearly, he would be a huge loss.
Third-round pick is so little
Obviously, we don’t know for a fact the most Jackson would fetch in a trade is a third-round pick. However, if Derrick Gunn’s report for CSN is accurate and the Eagles have had trouble garnering interest even at that price, you certainly have to at least wonder why they would even bother.
Ideally, the team would get at least a first for a highly-productive 27-year-old player in his prime. In Jackson’s case, given all the extra baggage, I can understand why the bidding would start with a second instead. But a third, that just seems like a slap in the face and teams trying to take advantage of the situation.
No player is ever truly untouchable if the price is right. In this case, clearly it’s not.
$6 million in dead money
One reason I thought the Eagles might wait one more year to pull the trigger on any moves involving Jackson is his contract. Sure, the organization can save $6.5 million under the cap if they get this guy off their books. However, the other $6 million—almost half of his salary in ‘14—will convert to dead money against the cap if he’s traded.
The dead money comes from a prorated $10 million signing bonus that’s spread over the life of the contract. With each passing year, the dead money decreases by $2 million, so if the Birds wait until next year, it would be $4 million in dead money.
It’s not enough to prevent the Eagles from moving Jackson, especially because ultimately they’re still saving in the end. However, it’s usually more favorable from a business standpoint when you get something for your money, which is why it’s a little surprising this organization would be so willing to eat that much to be rid of him.
Wide receiver goes from strength to question mark
The biggest concern of all is without a doubt the instability a trade would create at the wide receiver position. Jeremy Maclin is probably capable of being a No. 1 receiver in this league, but he’s coming off of a torn ACL and will be playing on a one-year deal. Riley Cooper might be an adequate No. 2, but has limited ability and is a likely candidate for regression in ’14.
The Eagles will obviously draft a wide receiver as well whether Jackson is traded this offseason or not, but we all know how that works. There’s no guarantee that player will pan out, and certainly is an unreliable option in his rookie year if nothing else.
I’m perfectly alright with trading Jackson, in fact I theorized this could happen myself before the story blew up—only next year, when some of these questions are answered. Maclin, Cooper and a player from this draft sounds like a fine combo to me, but it’s predicated on everything working out according to plan. How often does that happen?
I think the most preferable situation might be Jackson plays out this year while the Eagles get their ducks in a row at the position, then they take what they can get next offseason. However, given the quality of this draft and the likelihood that strategy blows up in their face, it would be hard to blame them for striking while the iron is hot.
If the Birds could get at least a second for Jackson right now, a trade is a no-brainer. With all we know however—and all we don’t—I’m not so sure they shouldn’t just settle for the best package they are offered before the draft.