Eagles must decide if Jackson is worth the trouble

Posted: November 16, 2011

There are two ways the relationship between receiver DeSean Jackson and the Eagles can go now.

The player and the team can arrive at a contract extension that is fair to both parties and, aside from the occasional rockhead move that seems an unavoidable part of the young man's makeup, they can coexist happily and perhaps even successfully.

Failing that, this thing with his contract can continue to fester and the Eagles will be forced to trade Jackson, probably at somewhat of a loss, or will hold him until he can break away as a free agent.

There doesn't seem to be a middle ground between those two outcomes. It is unlikely that Jackson will wake up one morning and say: "I'm not being respected here, but darn it, that's just how it goes. I'm going to make the best of the situation."

So, which will it be? The sun or the rain?

The Eagles have been down this path before with diva wide receivers. It almost never ends well, but Jackson is a different case. They drafted him, he bloomed into a star, and even the Eagles' front office admits that his $600,000 base salary this season is out of step with his place in the league.

It is easy to rail against the Eagles for not getting the contract done, and for putting Jackson in a position that angers him and may have led to a conscious decision to skip a Saturday meeting and earn a Sunday suspension. Jackson wouldn't say whether he was sending a message with his action last weekend, but his training-camp holdout didn't accomplish anything, so maybe it was time to send another shot across the bow at the season's halfway point.

People "don't know what I'm going through. I'm the one that has to come to work. I'm the one that has to be here," Jackson said. "Everybody can have their opinion and say whatever, but I'm the one that's dealing with it."

If the situation is that painful, perhaps another line of work might be a better choice. It's something he might want to consider.

Again, the Eagles can be painted as the bad guys here, but there are several unknowns. The one that matters is how much money Jackson and agent Drew Rosenhaus are trying to extract from the Eagles. The team knows it will have to give him crazy money, but Team DJax might well be looking for crazy, crazy money.

At the moment, the Eagles organization isn't in the greatest of moods. A season of great expectation lies in ruin, and all the decisions that went into building the roster are being called into question. No. 1 on the "We did what?" list is the contract given to quarterback Michael Vick, who has been inconsistent and uninspiring much of the year and - here's a bonus - is a coin flip to ever play a healthy season again.

Before they rush into the next big contract extension, the Eagles will examine the situation very carefully. It would not be surprising to learn there is a difference of opinion regarding Jackson's actual worth. He catches passes, sometimes very long passes. But he doesn't catch them by the bushel, and there are stretches when he doesn't catch many at all. With the quarterback increasingly hesitant to hold the ball until Jackson gets open (not Jackson's fault, but nevertheless), what exactly is his worth?

Beyond that, the front office will factor in whether it thinks Jackson will be a pain in the butt on occasion. Some of that you have to accept, but again, this isn't a backslapping time around the old campfire at NovaCare Ranch these days.

Jackson being unhappy with his lot isn't a new phenomenon. He sulked at the University of California, and his family complained to the coach when he wasn't catching as many passes as he might have during his three seasons. He drifted right out of the first round in the NFL draft and landed with the Eagles as the 49th pick in 2008. The backroom whispers were that Jackson had an attitude issue and didn't work all that hard at his craft. Jackson said he had no doubt who laid that on NFL personnel departments.

"I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, but I know it had to come from Cal somewhere," Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

His disaffection was deep enough that when the Eagles played a Sunday night game early in his rookie year, Jackson said "Long Beach Poly" in the taped introduction that calls for the players to give their school affiliations. Long Beach Polytechnic was where Jackson went to high school.

The NFL draft creates a caste system, and a player can't do much to change it until he becomes a real free agent six years into his career. If Jackson, now in his fourth season, lasts that long and still is performing, he will have a wonderful payday. He might even get it before then if the Eagles decide Jackson and his happiness are vital to their future.

That's not a sure thing, though. Jackson refused to practice fielding punts before a game last season, and coach Andy Reid lit into him before the day was out. Then he pulled that slow-motion fall into the end zone against Dallas, capping the performance with a somersault, a massive spike, and a 15-yard penalty. Andy didn't much like that, either.

But the man is good, very good, and that is usually enough in this league. Jackson probably can't believe it hasn't been enough to get him paid yet.

"It's been hard to come to work and be happy, just because of everything that's happened," Jackson said.

Look around, DeSean. How many happy people do you see coming to work at your place these days? Get in line.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns recent columns at www.philly.com/bobford and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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