Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Real Decision On DeSean Jackson’s Future In Philly Will Come Next Off-Season



It look’s like Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski’s story on DeSean Jackson being expendable, that was panned by many (I wasn’t one of them) local pundits, wasn’t “created out of thin air” like many suggested just last weekend. Either that, or a lot of local media outlets are making a story out of nothing.

As you can see above, CSN Philly’s Geoff Mosher was a featured guest yesterday on NBC Sports Network’s Pro Football Talk Live, spending a majority of his time discussing the increasing sentiment that the re-signings of Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, mixed with a stacked wide receiver class in this year’s draft, suggest that DeSean Jackson is expendable this off-season, at the very least.

In this case, it is important to keep things in perspective. DeSean Jackson did catch over 80 passes last year, and had a career high 1,332 receiving yards. Sure, he seemed to disappear in the Eagles playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, but he had a season worthy of Pro-Bowl consideration, and with the help of injuries, ended up playing in Honolulu. It isn’t like he is coming off his 2011 or 2012 seasons, but rather a career year.

I think Mosher’s story had a point, but saying that Jackson “is on his last legs” in Philadelphia, like he has had law trouble or didn’t have a massive rebound season in 2013, is comical.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer echoed that belief.

Reports that the Eagles could be open to trading Jackson – as if they aren’t open to trading any player for the right price – or that he is one more slip-up away from being released – as if posting Instagram pictures with rappers is a slip-up – are purely speculative.

I loathe the idea of paying DeSean Jackson over $10 million next season, when the team has two other more than capable starting receivers, and some big holes in the secondary. But, I might not loathe the idea too much next season if the Eagles end up with a top five offense again.

I also loathe DeSean Jackson’s Instagram posts, especially when he posts about how “he’s made it”, less than a week after the team was eliminated from the playoffs in a game where he virtually laid an egg in.  In general, DeSean represents why I don’t follow pro athletes on Instagram—because I don’t care when they are working out, and at the same time it scares when they are partying and not working out.

But if you thought that this IG (that’s what people who actually use the site refer to it as) post from DeSean on Tuesday night, was a sign that he was ready for an exit from Philly, rather than just reflecting on his mentor Jason Avant’s release, you are reading too far into the situation.

It would be foolish for the Eagles to trade Jackson this off-season, unless they sign or draft someone (notice the past tense there) that gives them a better option. Looking at both the free-agent and draft classes, Texas A&M reciever Mike Evans (who is a match made in heaven for Chip Kelly’s offense), is the only player I see who that represents any chance of being an immediate improvement. And even then, asking a rookie to improve on Jackson’s pro-bowl caliber season, might be a bit much.

Jackson’s trade becomes even less likely when you think about the fact that they would get absolutely zero return in a trade for a receiver that is due to make over $10 million on his base salary, and wants more guaranteed money. And let’s be frank here, he is deserving of more guaranteed money, so if any team did trade for him, they would have to factor in that not only are they taking on a large salary, but a large salary of a player who still wants more. And he isn’t getting released, so I’m not wasting anyone’s time addressing that.

Last Sunday, I addressed the Kempski article in my weekly mailbag, by saying that he raised a very interesting idea (which is part of being a successful writer), but that I believed the Eagles were much more likely to make a decision on Jackson’s future next off-season. For the time being, all three are under contract for the 2014 season. As Kempski pointed out, the Eagles will have nearly $27 million against the cap for their wide receivers alone next year, but I’m not sure they can’t do that for a season. Longterm might be another thing.

For the time being Nick Foles and Mychal Kendricks, are still on their rookie contracts. While both of them are under contract through the 2015 season, long-term deals seem likely after next season, if the two show the progression towards stardom that they did in 2013.

Trent Cole’s cap hit jumps to a ridiculous $11.625 next year (per Spotrac), which means makes him a candidate to be released. If the team restructures the deal this off-season, the number may come down, but I wouldn’t expect it to be much lower than $5 or $6 million. And if they release him, they still need someone to play outside-linebacker. Howie Roseman and the Eagles front-office will face a very similar dilemma at middle linebacker with Demeco Ryans. In either case, restructures are possible. At the same time, upgrades could afford to be made, but would take a decent amount of capspace.

The Eagles are likely to stick with Cole and Ryans in 2014, even though neither of them is suited to play in the 3-4, because this off-season appears about fixing the secondary. Even signing Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward would leave the strong-safety position open, which will have to be  addressed in either the draft or free-agency. Bradley Fletcher has a very team-friendly contract, unlike Cary Williams, who has a high cap hit next season($6.4 million). The Eagles could make a decision to upgrade (or sign someone to a more team-friendly deal that has a lower cap-hit in 2014) the cornerback spot this off-season through free-agency or the draft, but that will take some money too.

Over the cap projects the Eagles to currently be $24 million under the cap, but continuing to build the secondary (especially if Byrd or Ward is signed), addressing the linebacking core, and signing Kendricks and Foles to long-term deals, won’t leave room for the Eagles to dedicate nearly $27 million to one position.

So it’s fair to treat DeSean like he is entering a contract year, because in a lot of senses he is. At the end of the 2014 season, the Eagles are going to have to make a choice between Jackson and Maclin.

Prior to the 2013 season, Maclin had more receptions and receiving yards than Jackson in 2011 and 2012, and his athleticism should also allow him to thrive in Chip Kelly’s offense. Not to mention Maclin brings about zero baggage, while DeSean, albeit little things, brings baggage.

Could a productive 2014 season from Jeremy Maclin, push DeSean Jackson out of Philly?

Could a productive 2014 season from Jeremy Maclin, push DeSean Jackson out of Philly?

Even if it was financially do-able under the current circumstances, giving Maclin a long-term deal, would turn DeSean Jackson’s contract lobbying into a distraction. Giving Maclin a new deal, and not re-doing Jackson’s isn’t even a solution the Eagles can consider.

The Eagles could give Maclin a deal similar to Jackson’s current deal. Maybe they throw him a little more guaranteed money ($17 or $18 million), knowing that Maclin will stay content throughout the course of the deal and that re-structuring Jackson’s deal will likely take even more guaranteed money.

If Maclin or Jackson don’t get enough targets next season, in what has quickly become a crowded offense, then this question might answer itself. Maclin can walk after next year, so if he doesn’t like how things go, then the question of who stays answers itself. The same can be said if Maclin can’t stay healthy. IF.

What we know now, is that Maclin was more productive in the prior regime, and brought less baggage. We also know that Maclin appears to be just as good of a fit as Jackson in Chip Kelly’s offense, and might still come at a cheaper price. Until Maclin gets out and plays a full season in Kelly’s offense, we won’t know for sure, but that’s how I view things. And given those views, Maclin appears the front-runner to get paid after next season, meaning that DeSean could be entering his final season with the team. So discussing his future now, is much more than trying to create a story before the Phillies start or the NFL draft takes place.

Tags: DeSean Jackson Jeremy Maclin Philadelphia Eagles