Seattle Seahawks: Vincent Jackson a Worthy Target

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Seattle Seahawks: Vincent Jackson a Worthy Target
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It’s been an interesting few days with speculation growing that the Chargers may be willing to part ways with Vincent Jackson. Word got out a little more than a week ago that the Seahawks had contacted the Chargers to inquire about the potential availability of the disgruntled sixth-year receiver. All indications were that the Seattle front office had been told to forget it.

Now, as the threat of a potential hold out into the regular season continues to loom, the Chargers are, according to many NFL “insiders," letting it be known that Jackson can indeed be had.

I don’t know what happened in a single week that suddenly changed the minds of the Chargers brain trust. Perhaps this week's announcement from the league that Jackson will be suspended for the first three games of the 2010 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy had something to do with it.

Regardless of the “why," the fact is that Jackson can be had. And while we're talking facts, let’s not forget the Seahawks lack a true No. 1 wideout and a proven game-changing threat on offense.

Sure, Golden Tate has the  potential to be this type of player, but he’s only proven it at the college level so far (insert maple bar joke here) . Leon Washington is a legitimate home run threat when healthy. He is, however, coming off of the gruesome leg injury he suffered last season. Time will tell if he’s able to regain the speed and quickness that made him so dangerous in New York.

In an uncapped year like this one, Jackson, 27, could theoretically be acquired via trade, then signed to a long-term deal at a reasonable and now, in light of the three game suspension due to a second DUI, possibly somewhat negotiable and leverage-able salary.

Stipulations could be demanded by a new Jackson suitor with regard to personal conduct to protect the new team in case Jackson messes up again. The contract Brandon Marshall signed with Miami is one example of how this type of long-term agreement could be structured.

Marshall’s contract includes $12.5 Million in guaranteed money. $5.5 Million of that came in the form of a signing bonus. The other $6 Million comes from Marshall’s $9 Million 2012 salary. However, it’s only guaranteed if Marshall avoids a suspension in the first three years with the Dolphins. Miami has lessened the assumed risk of Marshall by hedging itself against any episodes of stupidity on Brandon’s part over the next three seasons.

With Marshall averaging slightly over $9 Million per year (five year, $47 Million), Jackson will probably command something in the neighborhood of $7.5-$8 Million per year on average with a new team.  

Considering that Deion Branch is scheduled to make $5.4 Million this season and $5.95 next year, and with the emergence of cheaper, healthier players like Golden Tate and Mike Williams to go with the improvement of Deon Butler, it would make sense for Jackson to replace Branch on the roster.

They'd be increasing payroll by about $2.6 Million by shedding Branch’s $5.4 Million and adding Jackson’s $8 Million or so (probably a signing bonus of something like $4M and first year salary of around $4M) per year to upgrade your 2nd or 3rd wideout to a true No. 1 and possible top 10 receiver in the NFL. Not a bad trade-off there.

The big question regarding Jackson is what Seattle would have to give up in order to get him.

Earlier this year, the Seahawks made it clear that they weren’t willing to give up the two second-round picks that the Dolphins ended up surrendering for Brandon Marshall, who at this point should still be considered a better receiver than Jackson.

That’s not to say that Jackson is very far away.

He ranked ninth in the league with 1,167 yards receiving in 2009, but of the top 23 leaders in this category, only DeSean Jackson (62) of the Eagles had fewer receptions than Vincent (68). And of the top 40 leaders in the same category, Vincent Jackson was No. 2 in average yards-per-catch (17.2), again only second to DeSean, yet his longest catch of the year was 55 yards. While some would see this as a mark against Vincent Jackson, I see it as a clear indication that he consistently gained large chunks of yardage in the passing game, rather than counting on a few 70 or 80 yarders to jack his average up.

Jackson’s agent may initially push for Marshall-like numbers but any new contract will probably settle in closer to $8 Million once a signing bonus and other potential bonuses (i.e. roster bonus, non-suspension bonus, etc.) are factored in.

All this said, considering the performance, athleticism and big-play capability of Jackson, the cost of a long-term contract makes a ton of sense if the Seahawks consider him to be Branch’s upgrade. It should be money well spent.

So it’s not the money. It's about the trade compensation back to San Diego that may keep this deal from ever happening.

The Seahawks have already surrendered next year’s third-round selection to, ironically, San Diego in the Charlie Whitehurst deal. With Marshall commanding two second-rounders in his trade from Denver, I would be surprised if the asking price for Jackson would not include at least one.

My feeling on surrendering the second-rounder is, if you’re willing to endure two high-value rounds without a pick during a critical rebuilding phase, you’d better be confident that you’re adding a foundational piece and a true impact guy in return.

Do I think Jackson is that guy? I think he could be. He’s still young. He still has the physical ability to dominate at the position. He would provide an elite target for Matt Hasselbeck to a degree that I don’t think Hasselbeck has ever experienced.

The trickle-down effect of adding someone of Jackson’s caliber must also be considered. Acquiring Jackson would allow the Seahawks to move T.J. Houshmandzadeh back to his natural position as the No. 2 receiver where he will be a lot more effective. Housh simply does not have the explosiveness and/or big-play ability to be a No. 1 receiver in the league. However, as a second option, with more one-on-one matchups, he should return to pre-Seattle form and play more like he did in Cincinnati behind Chad Johnson/Ochocinco.

At 27, Jackson still has room to get better. Are there risks? Without question. Anyone who commits a negligible act such as driving under the influence more than once obviously has issues with his judgment. He should be approached with caution.

The three-game suspension that was handed down this week must also be factored into the equation as Seattle would be without Jackson for the first three games of this year if they are to acquire him. If the goal is to build for the future this year rather than focus on winning a division title and going deep into the playoffs, then perhaps the three-game suspension isn’t as big of a deal.

What has to be determined is whether or not the potential return that you’d get by acquiring Jackson, would be worth the risk you’d be taking by giving up a second round pick in a draft where you’re already short one high-value pick.

You’d also want to be relatively confident that you could have a decent shot at somehow replacing at least one of those picks. This could require that the Seahawks strongly consider moving a guy like Leroy Hill, in order to get back into the second or third round of next year’s draft.

So, the verdict?

I think Seattle could have gained a little bit of leverage yesterday with the announcement of Jackson’ suspension.  However, that leverage will likely only translate in long-term contract negotiations with Jackson. Not necessarily in trade talks with San Diego.

A.J. Smith has proven to be a guy who demands top value in trades, and I think at minimum, a second-round pick in 2011 will have to be included in any package to acquire Jackson.  It's also likely that the Seahawks would have to give up an additional pick to go with it. Perhaps a third or fourth-rounder in 2012.

Seattle should be perfectly willing to give Jackson the type of money that he’s demanding, and if he has any brains, Jackson should be equally willing to accept a personal conduct stipulation that Seattle would and should include in any contract they offer him.

Even if a second-round pick in next year’s draft is required, I say make this deal. You’re significantly upgrading your offense not just right now, but also for the future. Acquiring a guy like T.O. would be a “now” type of deal with the team rebuilding.

I don’t see taking on such a threat to team chemistry as the right move here. Make a move for now, and for the future. As for giving up the pick, the ability to acquire an immediate Pro Bowl receiver with significant remaining upside, should be worth a second-rounder.

Especially if he can help lead the Seahawks back into the postseason.

 

For more Seattle Seahawks discussion and analysis with Derek Stephens, visit The Blue Bird Herd

 

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