The majority of NFL fans feel that DeSean Jackson has played his way out of Philadelphia. He's had a down year. He's been accused of quitting. He has sulked about not getting his big payday and it's affected him on the field. But suppose it isn't like that at all?
Jackson, no matter what you think of his 2011 performance, has at least one skill that is always in demand.
Speed. Blinding speed. There may not even be a handful of NFL players who affect a football game with speed as much as Jackson does.
With the ball in his hands, Jackson can change any game at any moment. It doesn't even matter how the ball ends up in his hands.
He can score on deep passes by getting behind a defense. He can score on short passes by outrunning everyone between him and the end zone. He can score on punt returns or runs from scrimmage. He scored seven such touchdowns in his first three seasons.
There is a value in being able to do the things that Jackson does. While not as complete or consistent as Larry Fitzgerald or Andre or Calvin Johnson, he is really no less dangerous. However, he's dreaming if he thinks he will get paid like those three.
At least one team among the 32 will pay Jackson like another receiver, though: Santonio Holmes.
Through Holmes' first four seasons, he played 60 games. He averaged 59 receptions, 959 yards and five touchdowns per season. He averaged 16.3 yards per catch. He also averaged 8.0 yards per punt return and added another touchdown.
Over the same amount of time, Jackson has played in 59 games and caught an average of 56 passes, 1,002 yards and five touchdowns per season. He also has averaged 7.4 yards per rush, 10.6 yards per punt return and another two touchdowns per season.
Holmes had the benefit of a starring role in a Super Bowl, but he had the added baggage of legal troubles and character issues. He was enough trouble that the former Super Bowl MVP was traded from Pittsburgh to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.
In his first season in New York, Holmes had 52 receptions, 746 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 14.3 yards per catch. He parlayed that into a five-year, $45 million contract.
Jackson, despite the criticism, has caught 54 passes for 875 yards and three touchdowns for a 16.2 average. He still has another game to add to those totals.
Aside from the contract issues, Jackson is a solid human being that has never been in trouble. Jackson is liked by his teammates and he brings a lot more than statistics to his football team.
His speed must be accounted for at all times. He causes opposing safeties to play so deep that it opens up the middle of the field for other receivers. It also opens up the second level in the running game for LeSean McCoy. He is an asset, and a very valuable one.
Jackson has gotten a lot of bad press, but his overall performance as well as his unique abilities will garner him a lucrative contract. Likely for more money than the Eagles are comfortable spending.
So you see, he may have played his way out of Philadelphia, but not due to poor play in 2011. Ultimately, the money he gets will be because he is a lot better than people realize.