Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Potential Suitors If DeSean Jackson Is Traded
The Philadelphia Eagles have been active thus far in the offseason, signing both of their free-agent wide receivers to new deals.
Riley Cooper got a five-year contract worth $25 million total, but should Cooper fail to produce, the team can release him after two years with minimal cap penalty. Former first-round pick Jeremy Maclin was re-signed to a one-year contract, giving the Eagles one of the better receiving trios in the league. As expected, veteran slot man Jason Avant was was released, seeing as he was due to make $4 million next year following a 2013 season which saw a major drop in production.
The surprise rumor as of late has DeSean Jackson on the trade market. Per Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Birds may be shopping their three-time Pro Bowl receiver, even as he’s coming off his best campaign. Kempski reports that Jackson’s attitude clashes with what Chip Kelly wants his locker room to be. That, and Jackson’s $32 million total cap figure over the next three seasons, may push the Eagles to move Jackson to an interested suitor.
At just 27 years old, Jackson is still a big-time playmaker. In 2013, he set personal bests in receptions (82) and yards (1,332), while tying his career high in touchdown catches for a season (9). Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jackson rated as an above-average blocker, and he was his usual explosive self, tying for the league lead with eight touchdown receptions of 20 yards or more.
What the Eagles can get for Jackson will depend largely on a team’s willingness to take on his contract. A few years ago, Philadelphia sent Asante Samuel to the Atlanta Falcons and got back just a seventh-round pick, despite the fact that Samuel was rated by PFF as the 11th-best corner in the league in 2011. What compelled the Eagles to make the deal was $9.9 million and $11.4 million Samuel was scheduled to make in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
There will certainly be a market for Jackson; he’s just 27 years old, and if he became a free agent now, he would command a contract in the neighborhood of the one he currently has—$10 million or so per season.
It’s probably not likely the Eagles trade Jackson—they didn’t in 2012 when it was rumored—but here are five teams that may be interested.
Surprisingly, the Oakland Raiders lead the NFL with over $60 million in cap space. That’s probably because there’s no one on their team worth paying—other than offensive tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston, each of whom was inexplicably allowed to reach free agency without getting the franchise tag.
The Raiders’ current top receiver is either Denarius Moore or Rod Streater, neither of whom is best suited as a No. 1 wideout. DeSean Jackson would be an ideal playmaker to add to the offense, although he likely wouldn’t be thrilled with playing there.
Jackson would add a whole new element to the Raiders. He can still take the top off a defense. In fact, he’s still right in the prime of his career. If Oakland could get Jackson for a low- or middle-round draft pick, he’s worth looking into.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady really needs another wide receiver, especially considering Danny Amendola is already reportedly on the trade block. The New England Patriots may have a future player in Kenbrell Thompkins or Aaron Dobson, but they’re not in DeSean Jackson’s class.
Jackson would be the best outside receiver the Patriots have had since Randy Moss. The Patriots have $15 million in cap space, and they can add to that total should they trade Amendola or restructure/cut veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. That would give them enough cap space to add a player like Jackson, who may be enough to push the Patriots over the edge in the AFC.
There are several reasons the Indianapolis Colts would be a fine landing spot for DeSean Jackson.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was the director of player personnel for Philadelphia before taking the GM job in Indy. Grigson helped draft Jackson back in 2008, and he knows what kind of a talent he is.
The Colts currently have a need for another wide receiver. Veteran Reggie Wayne is coming off a torn ACL, and at age 35, he can’t be counted on to produce for much longer. T.Y. Hilton is emerging as the team’s best receiver, but last year's free-agent wide receiver addition, Darrius Heyward-Bey, was unproductive and eventually benched.
Indianapolis has just $8.4 million tied up with their receivers for 2014, which rates as the fourth-lowest total among all the teams. There’s definitely room to add a player like Jackson. Per Over the Cap, the Colts have over $40 million in cap space available, due largely to the fact that they haven’t had to pay Andrew Luck yet.
If the team wants Jackson, Philly would probably listen to an offer.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams have multiple first-round picks, due to the Robert Griffin III trade, and they’ve struggled to develop receivers that they’ve drafted in recent years.
Brian Quick, a second-round selection in 2012, has yet to pan out. Chris Givens took a major step back in 2013. Last year's top pick Tavon Austin was a reach at No. 8 overall, and he lacks the ideal size of a true No. 1 receiver. Of course, so does Jackson, but DeSean would unquestionably be the Rams' best wideout and their most talented receiver since the days of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
The Rams have just $7.3 million in available cap space, but they could certainly add to that. Quarterback Sam Bradford has a $17.6 million cap hit for 2014. If the team releases him, it saves $10 million, and more could be saved by restructuring his contract.
Other potential veteran releases include guard Harvey Dahl (which would save the Rams $4 million), defensive tackle Kendall Langford ($4 million), cornerback Cortland Finnegan ($4 million), and center Scott Wells ($4.5 million).
Conceivably, the Rams could have $30 million or more available in cap space, and that would allow them to trade for a player like Jackson.
The Cleveland Browns desperately need another wide receiver to pair with Josh Gordon, seeing as Greg Little is stretched as a No. 2 and Davone Bess endured a miserable 2013 season.
DeSean Jackson would be another weapon for a team that, despite some upheaval at the quarterback position, was starting to develop a dynamic passing game in 2013, thanks to breakout seasons by Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron.
The Browns have multiple first-round picks due to the Trent Richardson trade, which they could certainly use as leverage to get Jackson. Cleveland enters the offseason with a ton of spending room, checking in at nearly $50 million under the cap. They’re allocating just $9.17 million to the wide receiver position, which ranks eighth-lowest among all NFL teams.
Regardless of who the Browns start at quarterback in ’14, he would have a top weapon in Jackson. Jackson has probably a full three to four years left of his prime. An offense featuring Gordon, Jackson and Cameron could be a pretty explosive one.