Per Reuben Frank of CSN Philly, Jackson said he would like a new contract. Jackson said he’s outperformed his current deal and feels he’s due for a bigger one, even though he’s played just two years of his five-year, $47 million deal.
So does Jackson deserve a new contract?
Well, let’s look at the numbers.
He’s due to make a $10.25 million base salary in 2014 with a $12.5 million cap hit. His current contract makes him the eighth-highest-paid receiver in the NFL, behind Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson.
Per Spotrac, Jackson’s salary solely for next season makes him the fourth-highest-paid receiver in the league, trailing just Wallace, Fitzgerald and Harvin.
The numbers from 2013 show Jackson was tied for 17th in the NFL in receptions (82), ninth in receiving yards (1,332), ninth in yards per catch (16.2) and tied for 10th in touchdown catches (9). Pro Football Focus rated him as the seventh-best overall receiver (subscription required).
All of those stats would suggest Jackson is a borderline top-10 receiver. And he’s being paid as a top-five receiver.
So what’s the problem here?
Per Eaglescap.com, Jackson is set to be the team’s highest-paid player in 2014. Most Eagles fans would probably rate him as (at best) the fourth-best player on the team, behind LeSean McCoy, Jason Peters, and Evan Mathis, all of whom were selected as AP first-team All-Pros.
Mathis is in the midst of a very modest five-year, $25 million deal, and he's by far the best guard in the NFL. Both Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are making more money next year than McCoy, and McCoy led the league in rushing this year.
Jason Kelce is a top center, yet he's stuck on a rookie deal set to pay him just $1.39 million in base salary in 2014. Nick Foles is due to make less money next year than backup offensive lineman Allen Barbre.
None of those players have said a word.
Jackson has previously voiced his distaste over his contract situation, and he has a new agent than the one he had back then.
In the 2011 offseason, the team brought in a slew of high-profile free agents, earning the now-infamous “Dream Team” label. Contracts to stars like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie infuriated Jackson, largely because he was forced to play out the remainder of his rookie deal that paid him just $600,000 in 2011.
That’s understandable, given that Jackson had made consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009 to 2010 and became the first player in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl at two different positions in the same year (wide receiver and punt returner).
But Jackson doesn’t have much of an argument now. And it doesn't help his case as a team player that he’s admitted to letting his contract situation distract him.
He vastly underperformed his contract in 2012, posting just 45 receptions, 700 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games before ending the season on injured reserve. Too often, he seemed disinterested in playing the game. That’s unacceptable for a receiver who was in the first year of a new long-term deal.
This year, Jackson finally set career highs in numerous offensive categories and was a force in year one under Chip Kelly. He played more complete football, even taking his blocking to a new level. Jackson did all this without the presence of No. 2 receiver Jeremy Maclin opposite him.
Then again, shouldn’t a receiver making over $10 million put up Pro Bowl numbers? Jackson did exactly what is to be expected of a player earning that kind of money.
The timing of Jackson’s remarks is a little puzzling as well.
He’s fresh off a postseason performance in which he was a complete non-factor until New Orleans Saints corner Keenan Lewis got injured in the third quarter.
Against Corey White—who entered the season as the Saints’ fourth corner, behind Jabari Greer, Lewis and Patrick Robinson—Jackson was able to make three catches for 53 yards and draw a 40-yard pass interference penalty.
A $10 million receiver should be able to do better than that.
The Eagles are one of the NFL’s finest teams at handling the salary cap, and they do so by traditionally paying their free agents-to-be a year or so early. This offseason, general manager Howie Roseman will have a handful of decisions to make with the wide receiver position.
Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are both free agents, and both are key pieces of the offense. The ideal scenario would see the Eagles re-sign Maclin to a one-year prove-it deal, as the former first-round pick has loads of talent but has habitually underachieved and is coming off an ACL injury. Cooper broke out with Foles as his quarterback this year after providing little impact in his first three-plus NFL seasons.
And then there’s veteran slot man Jason Avant, one of the more well-respected leaders in the locker room. He’s an aging player whose skill set and declining numbers make him a candidate for a veteran release, seeing as he’s due to make close to $4 million in 2014.
A holdout from the already-well-paid Jackson is not a problem the Eagles need on their hands, considering this team is in prime position to contend for the NFC East title for years to come.