Inside the DeSean Jackson contract debate

Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson (left, with LeSean McCoy) isn't laughing about his contract.
Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson (left, with LeSean McCoy) isn't laughing about his contract. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 09, 2011

Does DeSean Jackson deserve a contract extension?

Both sides of the argument have been presented and argued since the Eagles wide receiver held out from the start of training camp. The debate has been played out on paper, on the radio, online, and on bar stools across the area.

But what about the guys on the Eagles - what do they think?

While it is safe to say the opinions of Jackson's teammates - and friends in many instances - don't reflect those of the general public, they do matter.

With two days to go until the Eagles open the regular season at St. Louis, Jackson still does not have a contract extension. The e-mail box and Twitter feed for a reporter is filled with predictions that a deal will be in place by the 1 p.m. kickoff. Those forecasts essentially are matched in number by those who believe Jackson won't get a new contract this season and will face the specter of a franchise tag in the offseason.

In essence, no one really knows - probably not even Eagles president Joe Banner and Jackson's agent, Drew Rosenhaus. And with negotiations stuck in neutral, it could very well impact how the team's No. 1 receiver performs, and thus how the Eagles fare this season.

So, does Jackson, who is slated to earn roughly $600,000 in the last year of a four-year contract, deserve a new contract?

"That's a sensitive subject these days," center Jason Kelce said. "I don't know how to answer that. I'll say this: I think DeSean clearly has the numbers to support a higher contract, but I don't make front-office decisions, and I think they're doing what's in the best interest of the ball club."

When about 25 players were polled, answers generally fell into three categories: the "Heck, yeah," faction, as voiced by safety Nate Allen; the "I'm not going there" contingent that only went there off the record; and the "That's not my decision to make," I-don't-want-to-tick-off-management bloc.

One thing was for certain: Each player was fully cognizant of Jackson's plight/gripe. Football is important for players, but if the 41/2-month NFL lockout taught anything, so, too, is business.

So, for a third time, does Jackson, who has been a Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons - two years ago as both a receiver and punt returner - deserve to have his deal reworked?

"Yeah. Sure. Why not? Definitely," linebacker Moise Fokou said. "A Pro Bowler at two positions? I say yes."

Since being selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, the 24-year-old Jackson has become one of the most explosive players in the NFL. Eighteen of his 24 career touchdowns have covered more than 30 yards. He can score in a variety of ways - receiving (17 TDs), rushing (3), and returning punts (4). And his 18.3 per-catch average for the first three years of his career is second-highest - behind Randy Moss' - since the 1970 NFL merger.

But Jackson's total receptions are nowhere near the numbers for the top receivers in the game. And after he suffered two concussions the last two seasons, there are concerns that the 5-foot-10, 175-pound receiver isn't built for the long run.

"I don't know what was said behind closed doors, but if he comes out ballin' this next few weeks - touchdown, big play, touchdown, punt return, which is extremely possible - then I can see [an extension] being in the realm of possibilities," defensive end Jason Babin said.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that Jackson took care of "the business side" with his holdout and that he is now "free to play football and not worry about that."

"He's separated the two," Reid added.

Since ending his holdout on Aug. 8, Jackson has attended every practice. He said three weeks ago that he wanted to continue returning punts, and that's exactly what he will do Sunday.

"He wants to be the consummate teammate," quarterback Michael Vick said Wednesday. "He wants to earn everything that's going to come his way, and if you see him out on the practice field or you see him in the locker room, he's a happy individual."

The Eagles once had a Rosenhaus-represented wide receiver who was not happy with his contract situation and let his unhappiness rip the team apart. Jackson is no Terrell Owens, however. Owens said earlier this week that Jackson should sit out Sunday's game.

Jackson is "completely outplaying his [draft position], or he has so far . . . but I don't think it's any kind of thing like T.O. [saying] he shouldn't play," guard Evan Mathis said.

Predictably, none of the Eagles polled said - either on or off the record - that Jackson should not be compensated. Many of the Eagles are playing on their rookie contracts or just on one-year deals or for the league minimum. And even those who are well-paid - such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who scored a five-year, $60 million deal from the Eagles in July - understand Jackson's stance.

"I just don't want to get into whether or not the front office should pay him, because it's not my money, and it's not my decision to make," Asomugha said. "But I do understand how a player feels in this situation because I've been there."


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

 

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