As the San Diego Chargers enter free agency and prepare for the impending NFL draft, a large shadow looms over their ability to make decisions. That shadow is cast by 6’5”, 230-pound free-agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
How much money the Chargers have available to spend in free agency and what needs the team will be left to fill through the draft won’t become clear until the Jackson situation is resolved.
Jackson holds all the cards in what will ultimately be his decision about his future in San Diego. If the Chargers fail to make a sufficient offer, Jackson will have at least a half-dozen suitors lined up to throw big money his way.
Before the Chargers look outside the organization for help, they will have to address their own free agents. How the team moves on players like Nick Hardwick, Jared Gaither, Antonio Garay, Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester will be directly influenced by Jackson’s decision to stay or go.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune reported that the Chargers are comfortable offering Jackson a contract paying $10-11 million per year for five years. Jackson will get to decide if that’s enough money to keep him in San Diego.
If Jackson stays, the Chargers will have less money to re-sign other free agents, both inside and outside the organization. If Jackson leaves, the Chargers will have to find a player capable of replacing more than 60 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns per season.
At this point, Jackson has made it clear that he would like to remain in San Diego. Likewise, the Chargers have expressed their desire to retain him if the price is right.
If the Chargers are sincere in their assertion that they will not use the franchise tag for a second time on Jackson, the ongoing contract battle will finally come to an end. Jackson will get a huge multiyear contract, either with the Chargers or elsewhere.
While it’s still unclear where Jackson will end up, what is clear is the Chargers will not be able to move forward until the Jackson situation is behind them.