The question regarding Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and his contract situation has evolved from “what is he worth”, to, “is he worth it?” Prior to this season, it was a no-brainer that the Eagles definitely should give him a new contract.
Ten weeks into this season, there are now reasons to reconsider that stance.
The Eagles now have to not only weigh what his value is when compared to the league’s other top receivers, they have to decide if he’s worth paying at all.
Jackson’s recent benching against Arizona was the result of him either entirely missing a meeting (Eagles’ story), or being 20 minutes late to said meeting (DeSean’s story). Either way, the perception from management is that Jackson “blew off” the meeting in an attempt to make a statement.
A perception that Jackson himself did not confirm nor deny when asked if that was the real reason for missing the meeting.
It’s no coincidence that this happened during the week that followed the deadline for contract money to be counted under this year’s salary cap. It’s plain and simple: Jackson was, and still is, angry about his lack of a new deal.
And it has clearly affected his attitude and therefore his play this season.
Jackson began the season with a good performance against the St. Louis Rams where he caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. The next week he showed great hustle when he chased down Falcons DE Ray Edwards, who was streaking to the end zone after he picked up a fumble.
Since then, he’s had only one good game (San Francisco) and has been largely invisible.
The big plays, which are what make him a special player, have been missing this season. He has dropped several passes and looked tentative on punt returns. His 29 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns this season are good enough to rank him a mere 23rd among NFL wide receivers.
Jackson is playing not to get hurt this year while he awaits his big payday. This, of course, is seen as a big no-no in the NFL and it’s hard to respect a player like that.
In essence, he is putting himself above the team. Football is the ultimate team sport and when your teammates sense that you aren’t giving your all, it has a negative ripple effect.
Both sides are at fault in all of this. The Eagles could have avoided this situation if they would have been able to extend Jackson’s contract prior to the season instead of paying guys like Vince Young, Steve Smith and Ronnie Brown.
Jackson could be acting more mature and less selfish about the situation by not allowing his contract to affect his attitude and play on the field. In a season where the team is set up to “go for it”, all Jackson is going for is Jeff Lurie’s wallet.
So, after all that has transpired thus far, the Eagles ultimately find themselves with an even harder decision regarding Jackson’s future. Do they pay big-time money to an undersized player who disappears for stretches even during “normal” seasons?
Can they afford not to pay him? Jackson is certainly not the same caliber of, say, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson, but he is valuable to the Eagles’ offense.
Even if he’s not making the big plays, Jackson’s presence on the field impacts the offense in a positive manner. Defenses have to respect his speed and account for the deep throw on virtually every play.
That, in turn, opens up the field for underneath plays and the running game.
Not to mention, Jackson is perfect for the type of receiver the Eagles prefer for their scheme. The Eagles technically do not have a “No. 1” and “No. 2” receiver in their offense. It’s more common to think that way because in most schemes, that is the case.
However, the Eagles’ starting wide receivers are titled “X” and “Z”. Currently, Jackson is the Z receiver in that he is the speedy deep threat that draws coverage down the field (or makes the big play).
Jeremy Maclin plays the role of the X receiver, which is the possession-type guy who is supposed to be open on the underneath routes cleared out by Jackson.
For a similar point of reference, look no further back than the combination of Todd Pinkston and James Thrash. Pinkston was the X receiver and Thrash was the Z. Did you ever consider Pinkston as a “No. 1” receiver?
I sure didn’t. And that’s why the Eagles don’t view Jackson as a true No. 1 receiver either, which I’m sure is contrary to what Jackson and his agent are arguing for.
The problem here is that Jackson is worlds better than Pinkston ever was and thus can demand more money. This is uncharted territory for the Eagles since Jackson is the best receiver Andy Reid and Co. have ever drafted.
At the end of the day, DeSean Jackson helps the Eagles win games and they need to find common ground on compensation. They can’t afford to let him walk away at this point.
I don’t like the way Jackson has been behaving this year, but he’s been an angel as compared to how some other players have acted when in the same situation. Therefore, comparably speaking, Jackson hasn’t been that bad.
Put it this way: If the Eagles decide to keep Andy Reid as head coach and Michael Vick as quarterback for the 2012 season, they need to keep Jackson as well because he gives this team a much better chance of winning with him than without him.
We need to get back to the good times…