Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have both recently heaped praise upon their embattled star receiver DeSean Jackson.
The questions for those of us who like to read between the lines are: what is the motivation behind these positive comments, and are they open to bringing Jackson back next season or are they trying to paint a pretty picture in hopes of a possible “tag and trade?”
I’ve written recently about why I think DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel will not be back with the Eagles in 2012. However, while things still appear that way regarding Samuel, it seems the Eagles are at least considering bringing Jackson back.
Per Bob Grotz of the Delco Times, Mornhinweg stated last week that Jackson “has been just terrific the last couple of months.”
Then on Sunday, after the Eagles’ victory over the Washington Redskins, Jack McCaffery quoted Andy Reid as saying this about Jackson (and his 62-yard touchdown catch):
“That was a heck of a play,” Andy Reid said. “He was double-teamed like he has been for most of the year. The ball was actually thrown a little bit short. Michael got a little bit of pressure and he put it up and DeSean weaved his way through and made the catch. It was a great play. Like he’s been most of the year, he had a couple of people covering him.
“I’m proud of him this last half, how he battled through and did a good job.”
By “last half”, I believe Reid is talking about the last half of the season and basically echoed what Mornhinweg had said.
So they’re proud of Jackson and think he’s been a terrific guy for the last eight weeks. Let’s also not forget how Reid vigorously defended Jackson after the game against the Seattle Seahawks.
That was the game in which the NFL Network portrayed Jackson as being disinterested in the game and/or blowing off Vince Young on the sideline. At the time, I didn’t think the NFL Network was too off-base in how they portrayed it.
It was, after all, only a week after a game in which Jackson was benched for his horrible play against New England, and only three weeks after he was deactivated for the Arizona game after missing a special teams meeting.
But yet, Andy Reid still defended Jackson by saying he was “all in”, even though it really did appear that Jackson was anything but “all in” during the game.
We all know the trials and tribulations of DeSean Jackson this year and how his contract issue affected his attitude and play on the field. As per the Jack McCaffery article referenced earlier, Jackson admitted to this after the season finale:
“I think I have learned a lot about how this is a business and professionally how to come to work and not let things affect me,” he said after the Eagles’ 34-10 victory over the Washington Redskins at the Linc. “I can admit to certain things affecting me during the season. I just want to apologize. I could have handled things a little differently.”
Yes, he could have handled things differently, and so could have the Eagles.
Based on the past history of how the Eagles and Andy Reid have handled these types of situations with players, I was just about certain that Jackson would not be back in 2012.
However, there has to be a reason why Reid and Co. have been talking positively about him lately. If Reid had no intent of bringing him back, he just wouldn’t say anything at all about him except for maybe a “canned-response” to a question.
For all of the issues this season, Jackson’s behavior hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as it could have been. Jackson could very well be somewhat of a diva, but he doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Terrell Owens or Randy Moss.
It’s possible that Reid and the Eagles’ organization have acknowledged their role in creating the problem with Jackson. At least I would hope so because it’s true, they certainly have a lot of accountability in the matter.
They could also view Jackson as an immature kid trying to deal with the business side of his profession rather than as a selfish head-case (like T.O.). And if they believe he is “maturing”, maybe they’ll be amiable to working out a new deal.
Then, there is the possibility that the Eagles could just be trying to create the impression that Jackson is not a problem player. In essence, their ultimate plan could be to put the franchise tag on him and try to trade him.
Therefore, they are building him up by praising his turnaround in attitude and saying how valuable he is because he attracts double-teams and opens up the field for other receivers.
Of course, Jackson’s nice 62-yard touchdown catch against the Redskins was good for his image too.
The Eagles are always thinking ahead and everything they say is calculated. There is definitely a particular reason why they’ve been praising Jackson and it’s not purely because they think he’s just a swell guy.
At this point, it would almost seem dumb to just let Jackson walk away via free agency and get nothing in return. If the Eagles are going to exercise the franchise tag this offseason, he is the only player worthy of that designation.
The Eagles could also use the transition tag on him, which would give the team the right of first refusal. This designation means that Jackson could negotiate a contract with another team and the Eagles would have the right to match it, or not.
While that’s a possibility, it’s a seldom-used tag by any team.
There is always the possibility that the Eagles could place the franchise tag on Jackson, and then he actually plays the 2012 season on a one-year franchise contract. However, that would be just as risky as this season because Jackson wouldn’t have any future security.
That could lead to another year of short-arming passes, lapses in concentration, and ultimately just be another year of distractions.
Therefore, Jackson will likely be franchised and the Eagles will listen to any potential trade offers. If nothing they like comes along, they could just opt to negotiate a long term deal.
If Jackson does not return in 2012, the Eagles will need to replace him because I do not feel that a receiving corps consisting of Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant will be good enough to compete.
At the end of the day, I hope they can work things out with Jackson. He has his flaws and will never produce like a Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, but he has tremendous speed and big play ability.
He is an exciting player and his best value is to the Eagles, and in this particular offense.