How much is Desean Jackson worth to the Philadelphia Eagles? That is the question the Eagles’ front office must answer in the near future. It is well known that he wants a new deal and for the most part has been professional about his situation. In other words, he’s not doing sit-ups in his driveway and complaining to the media ala one Mr. Terrell Owens. Jackson is a dynamic player, a game changer, and someone that defenses must account for at all times.
He is a speed demon that can stretch the field and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He has scored on long receptions, running end-arounds, and returning punts. I’m sure we all remember his electrifying punt return that won the Giants game last season as time expired. And who can forget the 1st play from scrimmage against the Redskins on Monday Night Football when he hauled in a 88 yard bomb for a touchdown while leaving the Redskin defenders in the dust. He is a graceful athlete and makes it look easy. He has also brought out the playful side of Andy Reid as evidenced by this memorable sight:
There is no doubt that Jackson is a valuable player. But, for those of us that follow Eagles football, he has also seemingly disappeared at times. Either through long stretches of a game or over multiple games, I have found myself wondering “where’s Jackson?”. To put him in boxing terms, he is like the big hay-maker that will knock the opponent to the canvas. But, he is not the consistent jabs and body blows that wear you down. He’s a big play guy but not the guy who will make the big catch in a tight spot. As the offense moves closer to the opponent’s end zone, Jackson becomes less of a factor because there isn’t as much field to work with. He is not a physical threat and certainly won’t “out muscle” a defender for the ball. At 5′ 10″, 175 lbs, he is not much of a red zone target. Plus, he has shown vulnerability to concussions from big hits. With a guy his size and weight it is certainly fair to wonder about his longevity in this league.
All of this leads to the question: What is he worth? Does he deserve to be paid among the top 5 players at his position? Is he worth Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson-type money? An even better question is will the Eagles offer him that kind of money? I’m sure Desean feels he’s worth top 5 money at least. So, lets do some statistical comparisons to what I consider to be the top 5 wide receivers in the league. Since Jackson has only played 3 years so far, I will compare his 1st 3 seasons to their 1st 3 seasons, then look at 2010 stats, and finally note the contracts they signed.
5′ 10″, 175 lbs
Receiving: 171 catches for 3,124 yards and 17 TD’s, 18.3 YPC (yards per catch).
Rushing: 44 rushes for 337 yards and 3 TD’s, 7.7 YPR (yards per rush).
Punt Returns: 99 for 1,112 yards and 4 TD’s, 11.2 yard average.
2010: 47 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 TD’s, 22.5 YPC. 1 rushing and 1 punt return TD.
6’3″ 218 lbs
230 catches for 3,135 yards and 24 TD’s, 13.6 YPC
2010: Age 27, 90 catches for 1,137 yards and 6 TD’s.
In 2008 he signed a 4 year, $40 Million deal that included $30 Million guaranteed.
6’3″ 225 lbs
208 catches for 2,806 yards and 12 TD’s, 13.4 YPC
2010: Age 29, 86 catches for 1,216 yards and 8 TD’s, 14.1 YPC
In 2007 he signed an 8 year deal for $60 Million with $15 Million guaranteed. Then in 2010 he received a 2 year extension worth another $38.5 Million with $13 Million guaranteed.
6′ 198 lbs
144 catches for 1,899 yards and 11 TD’s, 13.2 YPC
2010: Age 32, 111 catches for 1,355 yards and 6 TD’s, 12.2 YPC
In 2006 he signed a 6 yr, $40 Million deal with a $13 Million signing bonus.
6′ 212 lbs
142 catches for 2,154 yards and 9 TD’s, 15.6 YPC
2010: Age 29, 115 catches for 1,389 yards and 10 TD’s, 12.1 YPC
In 2009 he signed a 6 year, $50 Million deal with $18 Million guaranteed.
6’5″ 236 lbs
193 catches for 3,071 yards and 21 TD’s, 15.8 YPC
2010: Age 25, 77 catches for 1,120 yards and 12 TD’s, 14.5 YPC
He is still on his rookie deal he received as the #2 overall pick in 2007: A 6 year, $64 Million deal with $27.2 Million guaranteed.
The 1st thing that jumps out to me is that his YPC is significantly better than the rest. He also has just as many touchdowns in his 1st 3 years as Fitzgerald had (though 7 are from rushes/punt returns). Statistically speaking, he looks just as good as the other 5 receivers, if not better. The only stat that shows where he trails the others is in receptions. That coincides with the fact he is the home run hitter and not the possession receiver. The other guys can be both, which is the main thing that separates them from Desean, besides the obvious size differences.
Does size really matter? (Where have I heard that question before?) Well, for comparison’s sake, lets find another wide receiver of similar size…Carolina’s Steve Smith. He is now a 10 year veteran so lets take a quick look at his stats:
5’9″ 185 lbs
1st 3 years of career:
Receiving: 152 catches for 2,136 yards and 10 TD’s, 14.7 YPC
Punt returns: 133 for 1,273 yards and 4 TD’s, 9.5 YPR
Kick returns: 93 for 2,311 yards and 2 TD’s, 24.8 YPR
2010: Age 31, 46 catches for 554 yards and 2 TD’s, 12 YPC
In 2007 he had 3 years added to a 6 year, $27 Million deal he signed in 2004. The new total became $45 Million with an unknown amount guaranteed. Though, it was noted he did become the 2nd highest paid receiver in the league that year.
Smith is slightly shorter and a little heavier which makes for a more compact build. He looks “built” whereas Desean just looks skinny. Will that make a difference? Possibly. Smith has held up well physically and has only missed 1 season due to a broken leg. His best years were 2003 – 2008, his 3rd – 8th years when he was ages 24 – 29. Smith is the best comparison I can think of in terms of size, speed, and explosiveness. New England’s Wes Welker is about the same size as Smith and has held up well. But he is a great possession receiver and not the explosive threat like the other two guys. The one thing about Smith is that he is both explosive and a go-to kind of guy.
Jackson is 24 and will be entering his 4th year. He is just entering the prime of his career. His role as a punt returner will be significantly reduced if not cut out all together so we have to project his future worth as a receiver only. That’s what the Eagles will do and that’s what they’re good at…projecting a player’s worth.
So, what is a game changing explosive receiver, that disappears for long stretches at a time, worth? There is no doubt that if Jackson were to hit the free agent market he would hit the jackpot. However, if I’m going to pay Fitzgerald/Johnson-like money I’m going to want Fitzgerald/Johnson-like production but we all know that is not going to happen. The Eagles will certainly offer him what they feel is a “fair” contract, probably something like a 6 year, $45 Million deal with around $15 Million guaranteed (purely a guess on my part). The problem might be that Jackson will want more and that’s where things will get dicey.
When looking at his stats, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve to be paid as a top 5 receiver. But when you think about his potential production in the future, it’s hard to envision him ever becoming a go-to kind of player. He is what he is and that’s what he’ll be. It’s easier to pay big money to the other guys I’ve mentioned because they bring the total package. Jackson, unfortunately, does not. If you take away his deep routes, what are you left with? A tiny receiver that gets lost in the crowd.
At best, I can’t see the Eagles offering him any more than what Roddy White received in 2009. Last year, Miles Austin received a 6 year deal with $18 Million in guarantees. But there you go again, Austin brings the whole package as a receiver. If Jackson wants more than that he will become a free agent after next season and the Eagles will say goodbye.
I hope Jackson stays because I love seeing the explosive plays and how it energizes the team. He and Jeremy Maclin complement each other well. Just don’t get greedy Desean!