2012 NFL Free Agents: Breaking Down On-Going DeSean Jackson Saga

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 11:  Receiver DeSean Jaskson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

After a tumultuous season, it is still uncertain what the Philadelphia Eagles will do with much-maligned wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Although the Eagles slapped the franchise tag on the speedy playmaker, it's tough to say whether he will play another game with them.

While he's prone to making some bone-headed decisions on the field, Jackson was one of the team's darlings heading into 2011. However, after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Jackson took a step back this past year as he racked up just 961 yards and four touchdowns.

In addition, his once-elite return skills eroded and Jackson was often seen dogging it on routes late in the year when the Eagles' playoff chances were all but dashed.

Philly was considered a strong Super Bowl contender prior to the season, but the Eagles ultimately finished 8-8. It took a strong late-season push to even get to that point, so 2011 was certainly a disaster for the "Dream Team."

It can be said that Jackson was one of many problems, but he was made the scapegoat due to his lackadaisical attitude. Jackson was even deactivated for a game because he was late for a team meeting. It appeared as though head coach Andy Reid had grown tired of him, so the fact that Jackson was franchised might be viewed as a surprise by many.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Jackson has yet to sign his franchise tender because the salary cap has yet to be determined for the upcoming season. Once that is sorted out, though, Jackson will be paid as a top-10 receiver in the league to the tune of about $9.4 million for 2012. 

Jackson was still playing on his rookie contract last season, so he was obviously in line for a raise. At the same time, though, it's hard to believe that the Eagles will pay him such big money after he was perceived to be putting in less than optimal effort in several games last year.

With that said, there has been plenty of speculation that the Eagles may have tagged him in order to trade him. That makes sense, obviously, because Philadelphia might also get some assets in return for him rather than letting him walk in free agency.

Somebody will likely be willing to take a chance on him, but since the franchise tag counts as a one-year deal, the Eagles probably wouldn't get more than a second-round pick in return. That is clearly better than nothing, though. If the Eagles are really tired of Jackson's antics, it stands to reason that they wouldn't hesitate to deal him.

At the same time, losing Jackson would rob the Eagles of an important dimension of their offense. Even when Jackson wasn't playing well or giving it his all last season, he was still a threat that the opposition had to account for on deep routes. That naturally opened things up for the likes of Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy.

Also, when Jackson is at his best, he is perhaps the preeminent speed receiver in the game. He developed a great rapport with quarterback Michael Vick two seasons ago, and their chemistry was a big reason why the Eagles became one of the league's hottest teams.

There are a lot of moving parts in this situation, and ultimately it's unknown whether the Eagles intend to hold onto Jackson. They could give him one year to redeem himself and prove that he is worthy of a long-term extension, but if the right deal comes along, it might be difficult to turn it down.