2012 NFL Free Agents: 11 Teams That Could Sign Vincent Jackson

Tyler Ward@twardyyyAnalyst IJanuary 26, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: 11 Teams That Could Sign Vincent Jackson

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    With the impending departure of receiver Vincent Jackson from the Chargers, it leads to an important question...

    Where will he go and how much will his contract be?

    Of course, we can only speculate at this point and Jackson has repeatedly told the Chargers' front office that he wants a long-term deal, not a franchise tag.

    I'm guessing he's going to sign a five-to-six-year deal worth $7-9 million per season.

    Jackson definitely has all the tools to become a great receiver by joining a list that includes Calvin Johnson Jr., Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson.

    However, Jackson showed to be one of the most inconsistent receivers in all of football last season.

    For instance, to begin the season, Jackson registered receiving numbers of 31, 172, 63 and 108. There was also another four-game stretch in which the receiver accumulated 141, 22, 165 and 25 yards, respectively.

    Jackson also did not have a single 100-yard game over the last six games of the season.

    The point I'm trying to make here is that it wasn't fun having him on two of my fantasy teams.

    Regardless of his inconsistencies, Jackson is still a top-notch receiver in the NFL and is undoubtedly a Pro Bowl-caliber player. If he can land in the right system, Jackson could improve on his career numbers.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    I'm sure this first slide came as quite a surprise.

    The Jaguars need a receiver more than any other team in the NFL. There is no doubt that they have the worst receiving corps in the NFL—I'm sorry, but Taylor Price, Mike Thomas, Brian Robiskie, Cecil Shorts III, Chastin West, Jarrett Dillard and Kassim Osgood aren't going to get it done.

    Thomas is the Jags' main option and it has become abundantly clear that he is not a No. 1 option on any of the 32 teams. He is likely a second option or a slot receiver, which is a position he could flourish in. Price has copious amounts of potential, but he has never been given the opportunity to show that he can become a quality receiver at the professional level.

    Robiskie has been mediocre at best since arriving in the NFL and is not a starter, period. Osgood is a special-teams player, nothing else. Dillard, West and Shorts are just not that good and I don't think they'll ever be considered decent receivers in the NFL.

    Their receiving corps is so bad that the Jaguars are already contemplating giving up on Blaine Gabbert, their starting quarterback and first-round selection last year. Over the season, Gabbert definitely regressed, but it wasn't necessarily his fault. Receivers had something to do with that, and if they can get him a true, great No. 1 receiver, Gabbert could become the quarterback they've been hoping for.

    It has almost become a necessity that the Jaguars acquire a receiver somehow, as they haven't had a marquee receiver roaming the field since Jimmy Smith.

    I'm sure the Jaguars will try something during free agency or through the draft, as there is new ownership in place, along with a new head coach in Mike Mularkey.

St. Louis Rams

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    Ah, another team that desperately needs a receiver.

    The Rams were lucky to acquire Brandon Lloyd from the Denver Broncos during the season, but Lloyd is likely to leave during free agency this offseason—the receiver has stated he wants to follow Josh McDaniels, who has recently been hired again by the Patriots to become their offensive coordinator.

    With Lloyd practically gone, the Rams will definitely need someone to replace him. The Rams currently have one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL and it is only going to get worse once Lloyd walks.

    A corps that features Mark Clayton, Danny Amendola, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas, Danario Alexander and Brandon Gibson, among others, just isn't going to cut it at the professional level.

    The Rams will need to make a move somehow if they want to contend in the weak NFC West division. A true No. 1 receiver will also help the progression of Sam Bradford, who rapidly regressed last season.

    The front office recently hired Jeff Fisher to become their new head coach, along with signing Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to the same position.

    With a new staff in place, the Rams are looking into the future and it is clear that they want to build the team into the ones that were lighting up scoreboards in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    An offense that would feature Bradford, Steven Jackson and Vincent Jackson would become one of the best ones in the NFC West. Of course, they would also have to delve into the draft and possibly free agency again to become a decent team, but it starts with the signing of a great receiver.

New York Jets

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    The Jets recently severed ties with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, only to ultimately replace him with former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano.

    Regardless of who calls the plays for the offense, the Jets have a lackadaisical receiving corps that features the prima donna Santonio Holmes—who may not be with the team to start the 2012 season.

    There's also Plaxico Burress, who was alright during his first season back after spending a good chunk of time in prison. Burress will be a free agent this offseason and it is unknown as to whether the Jets will re-sign him to a multi-year contract.

    There are just three other receivers on their squad—Jeremy Kerley, Patrick Turner and Logan Payne. Needless to say, their receiving corps needs more revamping.

    New York's front office will definitely need to dip their hands in the free agent cookie jar or acquire players through the draft if they want to make the postseason for 2012, much less finish in the top two in the up-and-coming AFC East division.

    Like other teams on this list, the Jets need to give quarterback Mark Sanchez some help if they want him to develop into the player they had hoped for when they took him with the fifth overall selection in 2009. Having Jackson on the team would benefit Sanchez greatly and the Jets' front office should know that by now.

    There is no doubt that a Sanchez-to-Jackson combo would become a good one if Sanchez continues to progress.

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Colts, for the first time in over a decade, are in a rebuilding phase. They will hold the No. 1, No. 34 and No. 65 selections in April's draft, among others. There is a strong possibility they will use one selection in the first four rounds on a receiver.


    Well, Reggie Wayne is a free agent this offseason and has stated that he is practically gone and won't return to the Colts—and is currently thinking about signing with the Dolphins if they offer him a deal.

    Pierre Garcon is also a free agent and it is unknown at this point if he'll return to Indianapolis. He will likely receive boatloads of money from some team and the Colts may not be able to keep him at such an expensive price.

    Former first-round pick Anthony Gonzalez is also a free-agent and he likely won't return either (and honestly, I'm happy about this. I have never liked the former Buckeye).

    So what does that leave them with if all three go elsewhere? Austin Collie will become the team's No. 1 receiver. Blair White and Quan Cosby would be the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers.

    In other words, that's not very good. The Colts have to delve into free agency or through the draft and acquire a receiver for Andrew Luck, who will likely be the team's first overall selection.

    The Colts will have myriads of cap space, as they could let go of Peyton Manning and his $28 million contract. They will also be able to free themselves of Reggie Wayne's contract, along with Robert Mathis', Jeff Saturday's and Ryan Diem's.

    The front office will need to make a decision on attempting to sign Jackson or Dwayne Bowe.

Chicago Bears

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    I've honestly never seen a team that has had so many struggles on offense than the Bears. Since the mid-'80s, the Bears have failed to build a great offense.

    Yes, their offense as of right now is fairly good with Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, but they have no true No. 1 receiver. And they really haven't had one in a long time.

    For a second, let's just take a look at some of the receivers over the last 25 years that have led the team in receiving yards: Marty Booker, an old Muhsin Muhammad, Marcus Robinson, Curtis Conway, Jeff Graham, David Terrell, Wendell Davis, Dennis McKinnon, Bobby Engram, Ricky Proehl, Tom Waddle, Bernard Berrian, Ron Morris, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox.

    The point I'm trying to make—the Bears badly need a true No. 1 receiver. They have not had a receiver lead the team in receiving yards for at least four consecutive seasons since Willie Gault (1983-87).

    The acquisition of Jackson would give the Bears that great receiver they have desperately needed for what seems like forever. An offense featuring Cutler, Forte, Jackson, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox would give the Bears the perfect combination of size and speed.

    If Chicago were somehow able to acquire a receiver like Jackson or Dwayne Bowe, they would immediately become contenders in the NFC. I believe they'd be able to challenge the Packers for the No. 1 spot in the NFC North if they were to have a good, all-around offense.

    The Bears would be wise to sign Jackson or Bowe, or possibly draft Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd in the first round of April's draft.

Houston Texans

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    Can you imagine this scenario?

    I would immediately declare the Texans as front-runners in the AFC, as they would build an offense surrounding a healthy quarterback Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson, Jackson and Owen Daniels. An offense of that caliber would become one of the most prominent and gifted offenses in the entire NFL, in my opinion.

    The Texans, however, need to find help for Andre Johnson at some point. With their defense practically figured out, the offense may need some re-tooling. The truth is, Johnson has had a solid option beside him since entering the NFL as the third overall selection in the 2003 draft.

    Some of the "help" he's had along the way include players such as Jabar Gaffney, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, a past-his-prime Eric Moulds, Corey Bradford, Andre Davis and Jerome Mathis.

    Of course, the Texans would probably have to let Mario Williams walk in free agency. It may not be that bad of a decision, however, especially since they already have a solid linebacking corps consisting of Demeco Ryans, Brooks Reed and Brian Cushing.

    It's up to them though, but I think Williams will eventually leave the only team he's ever known. It may be for the best, as they can fill other needs, such as a receiver to help alleviate pressure off Andre Johnson.

    The Texans would be wise to sign Jackson or Dwayne Bowe or possibly use a first-round selection on Alshon Jeffery or Kendall Wright.

Oakland Raiders

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    How bad would it sting for the Chargers if Jackson left them for a division rival?

    My guess is that it'd sting pretty bad.

    The Raiders are one of a few up-and-coming teams in the NFL after acquiring quarterback Carson Palmer through a trade with Cincinnati during the middle of the season. Also, running back Darren McFadden should be able to return from injury and become the player he was in 2010.

    The receiving corps definitely needs some tweaking, as they seem to have speed and nothing else—Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. The oft-injured Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens are also on the roster, but neither are capable No. 1 or No. 2 options for the Raiders' aerial attack.

    T.J. Houshmandzadeh is another receiver on the roster, but he just isn't the same receiver he was when he and Chad Ochocinco were roaming the field in Cincinnati. Houshmandzadeh, along with Schilens, are free agents this offseason as well.

    The Raiders need a solid receiver for Carson Palmer, who has been rather spoiled in the NFL, as he had the aforementioned Ochocinco and Houshmandzadeh as his receivers. He's definitely going to need some help if the Raiders want any chance in winning the AFC West.

    Oakland really hasn't had a solid contributing receiver on the roster since Tim Brown and an old Jerry Rice were on the team. That was the early 2000s and it's about time they look elsewhere for a main option—such as Jackson.

    An offense with Palmer, McFadden, Vincent Jackson, Kevin Boss and the speedsters would give them quite a potent offense in the NFL—something they haven't had since they represented the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Carolina Panthers

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    Like a number of teams in the NFL, the Panthers have one great receiver, but the others are simply just not that good.

    Steve Smith needs help and hasn't had anyone to alleviate pressure off of him since Muhsin Muhammad was his sidekick.

    David Gettis was a surprise last season, but he's not a No. 2 receiver that scares opposing defenses. Brandon LaFell, the Panthers' 2010 third-round selection, is a decent receiver but is likely a better option in the slot rather than in a position opposite of Smith. Kealoha Pilares is a special-teams player and kick-returner, nothing else.

    Legedu Naanee, Darvin Adams, Armanti Edwards and Seyi Ajirotutu just aren't that good.

    Tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey are a part of one of the best tight end groups in the NFL, but they're really not players that could consistently take pressure off of Smith.

    Somehow, someway, rookie Cam Newton was able to throw for 4,051 yards last season with a mediocre receiving corps. If he were to have Jackson on the team, I'm sure Newton wouldn't go through a sophomore slump.

    Having Jackson on the team, along with Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, would give the Panthers quite an explosive offense. It may not make them contenders in the NFC South because frankly, the defense is horrible outside of a few players such as Jon Beason, Charles Johnson and Chris Gamble.

    If the Panthers were able to sign Jackson and shore up the defense through the draft and/or free agency, the team could challenge the Saints and Falcons for division supremacy.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Eagles made one of the biggest free agent splashes last year, signing Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Steve Smith, among others, and trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They could do something again this year and it could start with the former Charger.

    DeSean Jackson is a free agent and it is unknown as to whether he'll remain with the Eagles. Some sources have said that the Eagles would prefer to let him walk, rather than keep him for another season.

    Philadelphia is on the cusp of something great, but there are just a few more pieces to the puzzle.

    Jackson would probably become the team's No. 1 receiver immediately and would form a solid receiving corps consisting of the ex-Charger, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Steve Smith (if he were to be re-signed).

    There is no doubt that Jackson would be a great addition to the Eagles, but there are a few voids the front office needs to fill—such as linebackers and safety.

    That's why I'm deeming this scenario to be one of the most unlikely, but if there's anything the NFL has showed us recently, it's that anything can happen. That holds true for anything and everything, especially in sports so Jackson-to-Philly could transpire. The Eagles would be trading in a Jackson for another Jackson.

    The Eagles undoubtedly struggled last season, but I think they'll come back and make a playoff appearance if they're able to shore up everything on defense.

    There is no perplexity in believing that a team with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Vincent Jackson, Maclin and Celek would become one of the most intimidating and talented offenses at the professional level.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Like a few teams on this list, the Vikings are in desperate need of offensive help—and it all starts with Adrian Peterson.

    Unfortunately, Peterson tore his ACL at the end of the season and it is unclear as to whether he'll be ready for the start of the 2012 season. If he's not, the Vikings will have a multitude of problems—especially at running back and perhaps at receiver.

    Minnesota used their first-round selection last year on former Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. It seemed as though Ponder was able to progress as the season rolled on and he did all of without a quality group of receivers.

    Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Greg Camarillo, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton and Emmanuel Arceneaux are the only receivers on the roster—Camarillo and Aromashodu will also be entering free agency this offseason.

    That leaves the Vikings with four receivers on the entire roster, with only two of them actually being decent. However, Harvin is currently their main guy, but he is definitely not a No. 1 option. He would more likely flourish in a No. 2 role or in the slot, which is practically built for him.

    The Vikings will most definitely need to add a receiver via the draft or free agency in hopes of giving Ponder another weapon. The addition of Jackson would be what Ponder needs to become a good quarterback in the NFL.

    Jackson has been a top 15 receiver over the last few seasons, and the Vikings need him badly. Minnesota would also be able to give Jackson the amount of money he needs.

Buffalo Bills

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    The Bills are in desperate need of a receiver like most teams on this list.

    Stevie Johnson is set to become a free agent, but it seems that the Bills will ultimately re-sign him to a contract. Donald Jones and David Nelson are decent players, but neither are really No. 1 material. Roscoe Parrish is one of the most injury-prone players in the NFL as well. Naaman Roosevelt showed flashes of promise last season, but he's more likely suited for a slot role.

    Ruvell Martin, Derek Hagan, Kamar Aiken and Marcus Easley just aren't that good to be honest.

    There are just a few pieces that the Bills need to fill, especially on defense. There are also a few key components on offense that they need to fulfill, too.

    Fitzpatrick was great at the start of the season, but struggled in the middle and at the end of the season. Fred Jackson was arguably one of the top-five running backs last season before suffering a calf injury against the Dolphins in late November that conceivably landed him on injured reserve. His replacement, C.J. Spiller, showed glimpses of hope in the starting role and actually showed that he could become a decent running back in the NFL.

    The Bills will need to re-vamp the wide receiver position, along with the set of tight ends if they want that high-octane offense they've been looking for since Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed were taking snaps.

    Buffalo would have a solid team if they were able to sign Vincent Jackson to a contract. His signing, along with the re-signing of Stevie Johnson, could power the Bills into the top 10 in most offensive categories.

    They could also very well make their first postseason appearance in what seems like forever.

Honorable Mention

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    Don't rule out Jackson re-signing with the only team he's ever known, the San Diego Chargers.

    Jackson clearly wants a multi-year deal, but it seems as though the team doesn't want to give it to him and he could walk via free agency.

    It seems almost a certainty that he will leave because the Chargers' front office has a knack for letting talented players walk. Over the past few years, general manager A.J. Smith has let quarterback Drew Brees and running backs Michael Turner and Darren Sproles enter free agency—and all three players have flourished elsewhere.

    Not to mention, there are players such as defensive tackle Jamal Williams and linebacker Shawne Merriman who were let go even though they had a couple of decent years left in their respective tanks.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Chargers pulled off a miracle, but I honestly don't see it happening.

    Since being tabbed with the 61st overall selection by the Chargers in 2005, Jackson has had a rather stellar career with the Chargers, amassing 272 receptions, 4,754 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns over his seven-year career.

    He'll increase those numbers during the 2012 season, but it won't be with San Diego.

Where Will V-Jax Land?

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    I'm just speculating at this point because free agency hasn't even started. I think he'll eventually end up with one of the teams in this slideshow.

    Percentages for each team to land Jackson

    Jacksonville—60 percent

    St. Louis—75 percent

    N.Y. Jets—35 percent

    Indianapolis—70 percent

    Chicago—35 percent

    Houston—25 percent

    Oakland—50 percent

    Carolina—40 percent

    Philadelphia—25 percent

    Minnesota—75 percent

    Buffalo—50 percent

    At the end of the day, I'm going to go with the Rams, Colts, Vikings, Jaguars or Bills.

    I'm going to go ahead and say that the winner will be Indianapolis.

    I believe that the new general manager, Ryan Grigson, will make an impact in his first season with the Colts—as we all know, he was part of the front office that landed multiple big-name free agents in Philadelphia. The Colts are rebuilding and they're definitely going to need a big weapon for Andrew Luck if they want him to become the next Peyton Manning.

    If Jackson doesn't end up in the Lucas Oil Stadium, he'll end up in St. Louis with Sam Bradford and Co.

    The Rams are in dire need of a receiver, and they almost landed him a year or so ago. I think it's very plausible that Jackson signs with the Rams, in hopes of giving Bradford a legitimate weapon for the first time in his young career.