NFL Free Agency: Why Eagles Made a Horrible Mistake Franchising DeSean Jackson
The two sides have been in a contract dispute that began during last year's off-season and forced the big-play wideout to holdout the first 11 days of an already shortened training camp.
Here are four ways that placing the franchise tag on Jackson may hurt the Eagles.
$9.5 Million Salary
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While the franchise tag ensures the Eagles of retaining Jackson’s rights for at least one more season, it also forces them into paying him the $9.5 million salary that comes along with it.
In the blink of an eye, the man they call “Jaccpot” goes from being grossly underpaid to significantly overpaid.
Getting tagged means that the wideout will earn over 12 times his previous year’s salary of $769,960.
If the star wideout and management can’t agree to a long-term deal, look for the Eagles to be the losers in this deal.
The most basic job of a wide receiver is to catch passes, something that Jackson doesn’t exactly excel at. The value in Jackson’s receiving ability is to turn any given catch into a touchdown. His big-play reputation is centered on his great speed, not great hands.
Last season, in Philadelphia’s Week 9 meeting against the Chicago Bears, Jackson’s limitations as a wide receiver were exposed. By dropping their safeties deep into coverage, the Bears kept the Eagles' receivers in front of them, which subsequently forced Jackson into running pristine routes in order to get open. After finishing the game primarily against one-on-one coverage, Jackson's final stat-line read: two catches for 16 yards on eight targets.
Even when he’s able to get past secondaries, Jackson has shown a tendency to drop passes. Over the past two seasons, the four-year veteran ranks as one of the worst pass-catchers when it comes to dropping balls.
According to Pro Football Focus, the four-year veteran dropped nine of 67 catchable passes thrown his way in 2011 and 12 of 61 in the previous year. To sum it up, Jackson has dropped 21 of 128 catchable balls in the past two years—bad enough for a 16.4 percent drop rate.
To compound a pressing issue, if you took his two previous seasons’ average of 19.55 yards per catch into consideration, Jackson left over 410 yards of offense on the field.
Just think about this.
If you ran a company and someone didn’t do their job 16.4 percent of time, would you want to pay them a top-five salary?
Character and Durability Concerns
Throughout the season, there have been question marks in regard to Jackson’s character.
After missing a special teams meeting the day before their match-up against the Arizona Cardinals, Jackson was told to stay home. Philadelphia also benched their top receiver during the fourth quarter of an 18-point loss to the New England Patriots, marking the second time in three weeks that he had been held out of a contest.
Personally, I don’t buy into his character concerns, but others might.
Although he has lacked in the professionalism department, Jackson has been a consummate teammate throughout these extended contract negotiations. When quarterback Michael Vick signed his six-year, $100 million contract during last year’s offseason, D-Jax was congratulatory and publicized his support via Twitter.
The Cal product has also proven that he isn’t a selfish player or locker-room cancer, and doesn’t deserve the Terrell Owens comparisons that have come his way.
With that said, the receiver does come with major durability issues. His small frame and stature work against him and the Eagles in a variety of ways.
At 5’10”, 175 lbs, Jackson isn’t the type of receiver the Eagles send across the middle of the field, or the type they can consistently target in the red zone.
He also comes with severe concussion concerns.
Jackson’s lack of size eliminates him from jump-ball situations and fade routes in the red zone. He also doesn’t have the strength to shed press coverage.
His only advantage of speed is completely negated within the 20-yard line, where he has nowhere to run and can’t get behind the defense.
With these handicaps and limitations, it’s no wonder why Philadelphia has struggled to score touchdowns.
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Little-known left guard, Evan Mathis, was the primary reason why the Eagles had such a successful offensive line, even though they started four players at different positions and had to transition between switching offensive line coaches.
The seven-year journeyman has flourished in his only season under offensive line coach, Howard Mudd, and is set to hit free agency.
Seeing how running back LeSean McCoy set career highs with 273 rushes, 1,309 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, it would be wise for the Eagles to keep their offensive line intact.
Mathis was ranked Pro Football Focus’s best guard and combined with left tackle, Jason Peters, to form the best left-side in 2011.
Mathis started all 15 games he played and gave up zero quarterback sacks while playing 1,024 snaps.
He finished the season by surrendering only 15 quarterback pressures and scored a +20.4 run-blocking grade.
One could make an argument that he was the top priority for Philadelphia during this offseason.
With Jackson now occupying over $9 million of salary cap space, it makes one wonder if the Eagles will have enough money to resign Mathis and their other free agents.
The Eagles Bade Against Themselves
Marques Colston would have been a suitable replacement for DeSean Jackson.
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The franchise tag is essentially a last-ditch effort for teams to keep players from entering free agency.
By tagging Jackson on March 1st, the Eagles have essentially conceded to Jackson and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, that he is worth $9.5 million. For reasons listed before, one can make a legitimate case that he is not.
With a plethora of wide receiver talent set to hit free agency, the team has taken itself out of the bidding for suitable replacements such as Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Laurent Robinson, Brandon Lloyd, Steve Johnson, Robert Meachem, Mario Manningham and Mike Wallace.
By prematurely tagging their own player before the March 5th deadline, the Eagles are limiting their own knowledge and leverage.
If Philly had just been patient, they could've used the developing market to gain a better understanding of Jackson’s value, while still possessing the same safety net.
For example, the New Orleans Saints are currently ways apart from reaching a long-term agreement with quarterback Drew Brees. With their main priority unsolved, it is very likely that you’ll see Colston test the free-agent market.
Even if the Saints had locked up Colston first, it would’ve provided the Eagles with a foundation in their own negotiations.
My guess is that no wide receiver free agent will command $9.5 million per year in an open market.
If the Birds and Jackson are unable to agree on a long-term deal like they plan, then the team has essentially overpaid to prolong their problem until next year.