Franchising DeSean Jackson was the Eagles' best option

The Eagles' concern with DeSean Jackson is that he would not play as hard once he got a multiyear contract.
The Eagles' concern with DeSean Jackson is that he would not play as hard once he got a multiyear contract. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 11, 2012

Have you seen DeSean Jackson's new hip-hop video?

It's awesome in the same way that Roadhouse is an awesome movie.

(You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdRPB_Fe3ZI. Warning: Gold chains are flashed, keg cups are drank, women are degraded. You know, your typical rap video.)

"On My Dip" opens with Jackson wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers cap and rapper Gillie Da Kid - a.k.a. "King of Philly" - wearing a black Phillies cap. They switch hats and the Southern California-born Jackson, now with the Phils lid, nods affirmatively at the camera.

The video was posted to YouTube on Wednesday, six days after the Eagles announced they were placing their franchise tag on the wide receiver. It's safe to interpret Jackson's nod as an approval of the tag.

He is satisfied with the one-year tender, a source close to Jackson said last week, even if "On My Dip" has a better shot of winning a Grammy this year than he has of getting the long-term contract he covets.

As of Saturday, Jackson had yet to sign the Eagles' tender because the NFL had yet to finalize the salary cap number for 2012, which would in turn set the tag figures. Franchised wide receivers are expected to be guaranteed $9.4 million once they sign.

That number alone - more than three times what Jackson has earned in salary over his career - makes inking the tender a no-brainer for the 25-year- old. But it would behoove Jackson to sign before free agency opens Tuesday to avoid any ambiguity should the Eagles change their minds and retract the tag.

That, of course, is unlikely to happen. Despite speculation just a few weeks ago that the Eagles would let Jackson walk and then find his replacement in free agency, the team's plan all along was to never let him leave without getting something in return.

With the tag they still have the option to trade. Again, the probability of Jackson's leaving via trade is low, but with a number of desirable receivers tagged and the free-agent market diluted, the Eagles might receive an offer they can't pass up.

At least nine teams are in great need of a big-play receiver who can stretch the field. Four of them - the 49ers, Ravens, Bears, and Patriots - are likely playoff contenders and may be willing to match the Eagles' asking price if they cannot snag a premier free agent.

Only two unrestricted free agents can be considered franchise receivers - the Chargers' Vincent Jackson and the Saints' Marques Colston - and that could be a stretch for both.

Of course, if the Eagles were to deal Jackson they, too, would be stuck in a shallow pool of free-agent receivers. They could rely on Jeremy Maclin as a deep-threat option and draft a big receiver like Notre Dame's Michael Lloyd in the first round, but that makes little sense when the Eagles have more pressing needs.

In the case of Jackson, Occam's razor - a simple explanation is better than a complex one - applies. Why dump the receiver - albeit one who can cause the occasional headache - for one just as or more expensive when you can retain him for another year at a reasonable price?

The Eagles' concern with Jackson has always been that he would not play as hard once he got a multiyear contract with a significant bonus up front. With the franchise tag they'll keep a receiver who won't get paid until he plays and who still has something to prove.

Here are the most attractive wide receivers expected to be on the market, with analysis provided by a veteran NFL scout who requested anonymity because his evaluations are exclusive to his team: 

Vincent Jackson, Chargers: After holding out for 11 games in 2010, you can bet Jackson is looking to break the bank. He's clearly the top available receiver, a big pass-catcher - 6-foot-5, 230 pounds - who can go deep (18.4 yards per catch in 2011). "A bunch of teams should get this guy, but I bet Chicago gets him," the scout said.

Marques Colston, Saints: The Harrisburg native has totaled more than 1,000 yards receiving in five of his six seasons in New Orleans. The Saints may still have the wherewithal to keep him. "He's not real fast, but he catches everything thrown at him," the scout said.

Mike Wallace, Steelers: Pittsburgh tendered Wallace, a restricted free agent, first-round caliber, so any team willing to make a run at the receiver will have to forfeit its top pick. Even if that happens, the Steelers can match any offer. "He really expanded his game last year," the scout said. "Just not a home-run hitter anymore."

Brandon Lloyd, Rams: Dealt to St. Louis by the Broncos in midseason, Lloyd saw his numbers dip after his breakout 2010 campaign. He'll be 31 by next season, but the Rams may need to pony up. "He's a late bloomer but still has a motor," the scout said.

Reggie Wayne, Colts: Some believe the 33-year-old Wayne will end up wherever Peyton Manning does. Without his longtime quarterback, he missed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in eight seasons. "He'll still be reliable," the scout said.

So don't expect an extension for Jackson. Don't expect a trade. And, consequently, don't expect the Eagles to sign a free-agent receiver.


Market for Free-Agent Receivers

With DeSean Jackson issued the franchise tag, the Eagles are unlikely to target a free-agent wide receiver. Here are the top likely free-agent options at the position, both unrestricted and restricted:

UNRESTRICTED

Player   Team   Ht.   Wt.   Age

Vincent Jackson   Chargers    6-5    230    29 Always a big-play threat.

Marques Colston   Saints    6-4    225    28 Caught 75% of targeted passes.

Brandon Lloyd   Rams    6-0    188    30 Doesn't do much after the catch.

Reggie Wayne   Colts    6-0    198    33 Dropped only two passes last season.

Robert Meachem    Saints    6-2    210    27 Scores a TD every 6.1 catches over career.

Mario Manningham   N.Y. Giants    6-0    185    25 Grab in Super Bowl was one of best.

Laurent Robinson   Cowboys    6-2    194    26 Will be difficult for Dallas to keep.

Pierre Garcon   Colts    6-0    201    25 Stats actually increased sans Manning.

Jerome Simpson   Bengals    6-2    190    26 Doesn't have much of a track record.

Plaxico Burress   N.Y. Jets    6-5    232    34 Would love to play for [fill in the blank].

RESTRICTED

Mike Wallace   Steelers    6-2    228    24 Would cost a team a first-round draft pick.

Jeff McLane


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

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