Grand slam for Redskins

Posted: April 04, 2014

A LOT of times in free agency, it is considered a grand slam if you can improve your team while simultaneously hurting one of your top rivals.

With the unceremonious release of Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson last Friday, the Eagles had to suspect that one of their chief challengers in the NFC East would take the opportunity to swing for the fences against them.

That's exactly what Washington did yesterday when it inked the mercurial Jackson, and that's a reference to both his blinding speed and unpredictable personality, to a 3-year contract worth $24 million, with $16 million guaranteed.

Whatever unconfirmed issues the Eagles may have had with Jackson on or off the field weren't enough to deter Washington from taking a chance on an offensive weapon that is dynamic enough to elevate its entire offense.

"We're excited to have [Jackson] join our team," said Washington's embattled quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

And why shouldn't everyone who roots for the burgundy and gold be excited? They should be as excited that Jackson is coming as a lot of Eagles fans are disappointed to see him leave.

It's seldom that a team can acquire a player with the playmaking ability of Jackson without having to give up anything in terms of compensation. Washington got better without having to surrender a player, lose or use a draft pick.

Unlike the Eagles, who now have to figure out a way to compensate for the team-high 82 catches, a career-high 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, Washington can scratch wide receiver off its list of requirements from the draft.

Signing Jackson as a free agent is a huge coup for the 'Skins, because, despite finishing 3-13 last season, their first-round pick, second overall, belongs to the St. Louis Rams via the trade that allowed them to move up and select RGIII second overall in 2012.

The strength of this draft is considered the tremendous depth at wide receiver, but with Washington's first pick being 34th overall, the odds of getting a receiver the quality of Jackson would be a longshot.

I'm not saying that Washington was targeting a wideout, but if it was, it now has the flexibility to move away from that position and focus on improving one of the numerous holes that a team that finished 3-13 is bound to have.

What I find kind of funny is that some people are predicting signing Jackson will blow up in Washington's face.

Exactly how?

Short of the allegations of Jackson's so-called gang affiliations evolving into him actually being a gangbanger - and law-enforcement officials have debunked that notion - what exactly does Washington have to lose by bringing in Jackson?

Let's repeat that Washington finished 3-13 last season, bad enough to earn the second overall pick. Extremely well-paid savior coach Mike Shannahan, who was brought in to build a winner, was fired. Rookie head coach Jay Gruden is now charged with straightening out a franchise that has had only three playoff appearances since the turn of the century.

Griffin III is coming off a brutal sophomore season during which his health and, worse, his ability to lead the team were called into question.

Jackson can't be a danger to the locker-room chemistry that didn't exist in Washington last season. This is an entirely different situation from what exists with the Eagles.

Personally, I think it was poor judgment for the Birds to send Jackson packing, especially since they got zero in return, but second-year coach Chip Kelly is coming off a surprising first season, during which he turned a team that was predicted to finish last in the NFC East into a division champion.

By virtue of that, Kelly has earned the right to implement the kind of culture he wants to establish and thus extract someone he considered a threat to that.

Kelly didn't want Jackson, so he got rid of him. While I don't necessarily agree with the move, Kelly gets the benefit of the doubt until it blows up in his face - if it actually does.

Washington, which has made the playoffs and had a winning season only once in the last 6 years, has no such leeway. The team is in a desperate situation, one that requires a higher degree of risk.

"It's an exciting time to be a fan and part of this team because the firepower that we have with all our guys," Griffin III said. "Everyone needs to understand that we haven't won anything yet, and these next few months will be about building those bonds and chemistry so that we can."

And if doesn't work, well, it finished 10 games under .500 last season so what difference would that make?

There is no football downside to this signing. Washington can only go up, because it can't get much lower than it already is.

D.C. invested its short- and long-term future in the blockbuster trade that brought in RGIII.

The incredible value of draft picks it surrendered (first-round picks in 2013 and '14) to get Griffin and the salary-cap penalties it has been slapped with made building talent around him difficult.

Having the second pick in each of the seven rounds except the first is a step in the right direction, but if Jackson is the player he has been for the Eagles over the last six seasons, nothing Washington gets in the draft will trump what it just added while surrendering nothing.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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