The holdout got the spotlight, but Maclin's unknown illness may prove more important.

Posted: August 09, 2011

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - At some point before the end of training camp, the Eagles will announce that team president Joe Banner and player agent Drew Rosenhaus have agreed on a contract extension for wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Terms will not be disclosed but will immediately be leaked to the media, and life with Jackson will return to normal, or whatever the reasonable facsimile of normal is when you're dealing with a young man who is very talented and very accomplished but not as much of either as he believes.

In the world of everyday employees, Jackson would have to abide by the terms of his present contract, which is in its last year and will pay him a base salary of $565,000. In the world of the NFL, where leverage is everything and guys like Jackson aren't found on the waiver wire, he has the muscle to elicit a better deal, and that is what the dance of the last two weeks is all about.

Before we get to the point when the contract is reworked, however, there will have to be some tedious but unavoidable dramatics of the kind that played out on Monday at Lehigh. Jackson ended his 11-day absence from camp and returned with a full entourage of publicity handlers, family, agent's assistants and - roll in the klieg lights, open the door to the Caddy, cue the tacky fashion consultant - Drew Rosenhaus!

The agent showed up for the afternoon walk-through, accompanying Jackson's first appearance on the practice field, and was promptly shooed away by general manager Howie Roseman. The Eagles don't allow agents on the field, apparently, and Rosenhaus had to get behind a barricade on the far side of the complex, mingling with actual fans and pretend-talking on the phone, until that became tiresome and he got back in his car to wait it out.

Jackson had to come back on Monday or he would lose a year of service toward free agency. The Eagles are even money to forgive the fines Jackson might have incurred during his holdout, but the service time isn't a chip the NFL will return, so the receiver had to show up.

What did the holdout accomplish? Well, it kept him out of practice in the hot sun for 10 days. He didn't get hurt. He let the Eagles know he wasn't happy, as if that was a shock. Otherwise, not that much.

"At the end of the day I have to be a professional. I can't cry. I can't moan about it," Jackson said. "I think my game speaks enough for everything. The only thing I can really control is playing in between the white lines. I can't control contracts, I can't control anything else."

Not that he didn't try. But assuming Rosenhaus and the Eagles can come to a reasonable middle ground, the contract will take care of itself and the drama can resume its previous course. Any time will be fine, fellas.

Meanwhile, away from the television lights and the noise, the real issue with the Eagles' receiving game is still a question mark and it might take more than money to solve it.

Jeremy Maclin has been in camp for a week but still hasn't been on the practice field. The team says he has an "illness," but won't divulge its nature. Maclin was sick in April with a mononucleosis-like illness and lost 15 pounds. It isn't known if the effects of that are lingering, but as recently as Sunday, head coach Andy Reid said Maclin was still undergoing tests.

It's a mystery and Maclin is entitled to his privacy, but there is at least as much at stake in getting him back on the field as in getting Jackson back. Last season, Maclin led the team in wide-receiver receptions with 70, catching 60 percent of the passes in which he was targeted, and in touchdowns, with 10. Jackson had 47 receptions, catching 48 percent of the passes in which he was targeted and had six touchdowns.

There's no denying Jackson's season was more explosive. He averaged 22.1 yards per catch, highest in the league among the top receivers, and racked up a total of 1,056 yards as a result. He was the only receiver among the top 25 yardage leaders in the NFL with fewer than 50 catches.

There are two ways to look at that production, and those points of view will be represented by Mr. Rosenhaus and Mr. Banner in their contract chats. Either it represents a super-human ability to break long gains, or it represents a freak season that probably won't be duplicated.

And on the other side of the field, steady as a metronome as he quietly ticked off receptions, Maclin became the go-to guy when the Eagles absolutely needed a catch. Jackson wouldn't have had the season he enjoyed without Maclin opposite him to keep the safeties honest.

So, if you want to worry about the one guy and hang on every twist in the dramatic saga of Jackson's return, that's fine. Holdouts and Drew Rosenhaus are always a good diversion. But that one will work out eventually.

Elsewhere, though, away from the lights, the Eagles aren't even sure they know the question, let alone the answer. The days pass by and Jeremy Maclin still isn't on the field. There's no way to renegotiate that.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/postpatterns

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