Jackson's words may spell trouble on the horizon

Despite signing a five-year deal in 2012, DeSean Jackson says he's now "deserving" of a raise from the Eagles. "Hopefully we can work things out smoothly," he said.
Despite signing a five-year deal in 2012, DeSean Jackson says he's now "deserving" of a raise from the Eagles. "Hopefully we can work things out smoothly," he said. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: January 08, 2014

The Eagles knew they had some complicated contract decisions awaiting them at the wide-receiver position this offseason, but DeSean Jackson wasn't supposed to be one of them.

The fastest and most talented of the current receivers group was with all his teammates Monday morning as they stuffed their belongings into green plastic bags and said their goodbyes after Saturday night's disappointing loss to New Orleans.

Having just completed the most productive season of his career and having recently changed agents from Drew Rosenhaus to Joel Segal, Jackson decided to make his first pitch for more money.

"I think my agent Joel Segal has a great plan going into this offseason," he said. "I definitely feel like I'm still a top receiver in the league and able to do some really explosive things. I don't think there are too many wide receivers that are able to bring that to the field except a couple of big-time guys, so I definitely feel something [is] deserving."

On a scale of one to Terrell Owens, who was entering the second season of a seven-year deal when he started his destructive contract whine after the 2004-05 Super Bowl season, Jackson's words amounted to a mild request.

It's disturbing nonetheless on a number of levels. Start with what Jackson said in March 2012 after he had signed his current five-year deal that guaranteed $15 million and still could end up being worth $51 million.

"I have five bright years to look to," he said at the time. "I'm happy with the deal I've gotten and if I wasn't happy I wouldn't have signed it. . . . I felt that I got my worth."

Nothing is more disturbing to the average, hard-working fan than hearing how a high-paid athlete isn't happy with his contract when the deal is not even halfway complete. It's true that NFL players don't get guaranteed contracts the way players in other sports do, but there is more than $30 million awaiting Jackson if he makes good on his promise of "five bright years."

More troubling was the second part of Jackson's quote.

"We'll see how [it] plays out, and hopefully we can work things out smoothly and not have to worry about anything out of the ordinary," he said. "But I definitely feel it's deserving. I've proven after this past year with no distractions and really put it all in for my team and had a lot of success, so we'll see how it goes."

Even though there was no malice in Jackson's voice as he spoke, there is a thinly veiled threat there that he could be disruptive. He also said he "put it all in for my team and had a lot of success," which implies there was a time when he did not do that. Perhaps that was when he wanted his first big contract.

At his final news conference Monday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said his team's chemistry was what excited him the most about the future. Anyone who lived through the T.O. era understands how quickly chemistry can go from a brilliant discovery to a ruinous lab explosion, and it's not that far-fetched to think a disgruntled Jackson is capable of such a thing.

General manager Howie Roseman said "we don't talk about contract matters of any players," and that's probably especially true when the player has three years remaining on his contract.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have other difficult contract decisions to make at wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin's ACL injury early in training camp became Riley Cooper's first big NFL opportunity in 2013, and both men are unrestricted free agents.

Once Cooper got past the stain of the racial slur he used at last summer's Kenny Chesney concert, he emerged as an outstanding second receiver, catching 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. His 17.8-yards-per-catch average was tied with Detroit's Calvin Johnson for third in the NFL, and at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds he could be an attractive free-agent target.

"It's a first for me," Cooper said. "I've never been in free agency, so I don't know what to expect or what it's like. I know I'm not on a team, but I want to be here."

Cooper's numbers were comparable to Maclin's during his first four seasons in the league, and now the Eagles' 2009 first-round pick must prove he has recovered from the ACL injury. Maclin said he spoke with Roseman and got the impression the door wasn't closed on his future in Philadelphia.

"I think we're all different," he said. "I'm going to be the guy who is there in tough situations and the guy who is going to beat guys in man-to-man coverage more times than not. I am going to be a guy who is reliable for the quarterback, and I think every team needs one of those guys."

Roseman said it's possible both Cooper and Maclin will be on the roster next season, and there is some sentiment that those two along with Jackson would be an imposing trio for opposing teams.

"You're looking at resource allocation and how much you can put at a particular position," Roseman said. "It's certainly going to depend on the price in anything you're going to do."

A faster version of someone with Cooper's size is a better alternative than re-signing Maclin, but an unhappy Jackson could threaten to disrupt team chemistry regardless of who lines up at the other receiver positions, and that's a terrible thought entering the offseason.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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