A lot of people laughed when word of a potential DeSean Jackson trade first popped up earlier this month, but now it looks as though it's a real possibility.
As we said two weeks ago, trading Jackson is not as silly as it sounds. Right now, 15.54 percent of Philadelphia's cap space for 2014 is committed to the receiving corps, per Spotrac.com, which is an unusually high percentage for any position except quarterback. And Eagles general manager Howie Roseman even admitted last month that investing too heavily in one position could be problematic.
"You can only put a limited amount of resources at a particular position before it starts taking out from other places," said Roseman at the combine, according to Philly.com's Jimmy Kempski.
Plus, as Kempski points out, Jackson "comes with a history of character concerns." Earlier this offseason, he was already lobbying for a new contract, despite the fact he signed a five-year, $48.5 million deal with $15 million guaranteed two years ago.
|NFL's highest-paid receivers (2014 base salary)|
|1. Mike Wallace||Dolphins||$15.0M|
|2. Percy Harvin||Seahawks||$11.0M|
|3. DeSean Jackson||Eagles||$10.5M|
|4. Vincent Jackson||Buccaneers||$10.0M|
|4. Andre Johnson||Texans||$10.0M|
I'd still guess that this doesn't happen because Jackson is too valuable to Chip Kelly's uptempo, speed-oriented offense and can stretch the field like few other players in this league. But almost everyone has their price.
What is Jackson worth?
Well, he's 27 years old and coming off the best season of his career. So regardless of behavioral concerns and a big salary, Jackson is pretty damn valuable on the trade market.
As far as precedents go, you don't have to go back far in order to find some notable wide receiver trades. Last year, the Baltimore Ravens shipped Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings sent Percy Harvin to Seattle.
Boldin only fetched the Ravens a sixth-round pick, but that was ridiculous. Plus, he was 32 years old at the time and slot receivers aren't quite as valuable.
Harvin's situation is much more comparable to Jackson's. From ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert:
Like Harvin, Jackson has a high-maintenance personality -- one that is hardly unique among NFL receivers but nevertheless requires extra care in handling. He has a habit of commenting publicly on his contract, something most teams disdain. You have to put in some work to have a smooth relationship with a Percy Harvin or a DeSean Jackson. That's the sometimes distasteful reality of managing superstars.
And in exchange for Harvin, the Vikings received a first-round pick and a seventh-round pick in 2013 as well as a third-rounder in 2014.
According to Gunn, "the Eagles are seeking at least a third-round pick and potentially more" in exchange for Jackson. Um, third-round pick? For a guy who is consistently one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game? I'd remove the word "potentially" from "potentially more" and replace it with "a lot."
Because if Harvin, who is only 18 months younger than Jackson but can't stay healthy and has never gone over 1,000 yards receiving, is worth a first-, third- and seventh-round pick, so is Jackson.
What should the Eagles require in exchange for Jackson?
What he's worth and what the Eagles should demand are two different things. The front office has every right to be stubborn if it so chooses, since this is arguably a win-win. If they don't get what they want, they're "forced" to keep a three-time Pro Bowler coming off a 1,300-yard season in his prime.
The Eagles should be holding out for a king's ransom here. They'd save $4.5 million in salary-cap space immediately by trading Jackson, but that's not much of an incentive for Philadelphia. The team still possesses over $16 million in cap space as is, according to OvertheCap.com, and has pretty much every key player signed long-term.
Philly won't likely have to even think about the cap until that stacked 2012 draft class (Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin, Mychal Kendricks) has to be re-signed in two years. And since Jackson has no guaranteed money left on his deal, the Eagles really don't have to stress about dumping his contract until they're good and ready.
Considering that trading Jackson will inevitably make a playoff-caliber team worse right off the bat, the Eagles would be silly to deal him for anything less than a first-round pick and a mid-round pick in this year's draft.
Scenarios to consider
Will anybody be willing to cough that up in exchange for Jackson? Not likely, especially considering the fact they'd be inheriting his large salary and larger ego. But that, again, doesn't mean Philly shouldn't entertain offers right now and moving forward.
This is a supply-and-demand thing. And if a key receiver gets hurt between now and September and one or more teams become desperate, it could happen.
Gunn specifically mentions the New England Patriots and 49ers, but both of those teams fared quite well with their current groups of receivers in 2013. I can't see either giving up multiple draft picks for Jackson.
I think if the Eagles are so intent on trading Jackson that they only require a second- or third-round draft pick, he'll be gone. Four teams to watch there are the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, all of whom need help in that area, have draft picks to spare and have the cap space to pay Jackson in 2014 and beyond.
If you're holding out for more (which the Eagles should), you wait for someone to need Jackson. If A.J. Green, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald were to get hurt, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Houston and Arizona would become possible trade partners.
So it all depends on how desperate the Eagles are to trade him, as well as how desperate someone else is to acquire him. But Philly has no reason to be desperate. The ball is in Roseman's court.