Vincent Jackson: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Take Leap of Faith with Free Agent WR

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer IMarch 14, 2012

Which Vincent Jackson will the Bucs get?
Which Vincent Jackson will the Bucs get?Harry How/Getty Images

Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have wide receiver Vincent Jackson in the fold, you may want to nickname him "Hotel California."

Why, you ask?

The answer is simple, to steal a line from the famous song by The Eagles:

"This could be heaven and this could be hell..."

Jackson could be a great thing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Or he could be the worst. He could be the answer on offense, or yet another guy who got paid too much for too little.

The Buccaneers didn't flinch when free agency opened on Tuesday. They went head first into the deep end and came out with Jackson.

Here's the "heaven" part of Jackson:

The guy is a beast. He's 6'5", 230, an awesome target for Josh Freeman who can get open, get deep, get anywhere he wants.

He's been to two Pro Bowls—that's two more than any receiver the Bucs currently have on the roster.

He's not a dink and dunk receiver, he's had 36 receptions that have gone for 25 yards or more over the past four seasons, which puts him in the top 10 in the league. He's averaged 18 yards per catch over the past four years, which puts him in the No. 1 slot among players with a minimum of 200 grabs.

Now for the "hell" portion of V-Jax:

He's had two DUIs. In 2010, he held out, looking for a long-term contract that the Chargers never chose to give him, and you have to wonder why they didn't. He played 2011 with the franchise tag. Why would a team not give him a multiple-year deal unless they perceived that his best days were behind him, and perhaps they thought it too risky due to his personal conduct off the field?

That conduct, his violations of the NFL personal conduct code, got him a three-game suspension in 2010 when he played in just five games.

So which V-Jax is coming to Tampa?

The Buccaneers have now officially shed their "cheap" image by guaranteeing him $26 million over the first two years of a five-year contract that's worth more than $55 million if he played all five years. But don't let those numbers mislead you. NFL Contracts 101 tells us to simply look at the guaranteed money and basically what you have here is a two-year, $26 million deal.

Before you start screaming "overpaid," you'll have to take a deep breath, wait until September and see how this all plays out. For all we know, Jackson could be underpaid.

Jackson does have a lot to prove. He will make more this year than the NFL gold-standard of receivers, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will earn $11 million this year and $16 million next year, a total of $1 million more than Jackson.

When you are making as much gold as the "golf standard" of NFL receivers, then there's a lot to live up to.

Then there's the beyond-gold standard, the "platinum standard" that is Megatron, aka Calvin Johnson. He'll earn $18.5 million from Detroit this season.

Taking all of this into consideration and knowing that Buccaneers general manger Mark Dominik is pretty thorough when it comes to "due diligence" regarding players, one might think that Jackson, who now has what he has wanted for the past three years—a long-term deal—will be at ease.

Jackson should be at ease; $26 million is a life-changing scenario. It is security for the rest of his natural days if he allocates it properly. At age 29, you would hope he's learned from his mistakes.

That's what the Bucs and their fans now have to do. They have to "hope" that they get the "heaven" part of Vincent Jackson.

Otherwise, in two years, someone's going to catch a lot of "hell."