2011 NFL Free Agency: The Top 10 Destinations for Vincent Jackson
I know, Chargers fans. You don't want to think about this just yet.
Your season just ended in disappointing fashion, with another squandered chance at making a postseason run. The playoffs just started, and you'd like to have a little time to enjoy watching football just a little longer, as well as lick your wounds a bit.
Unfortunately, that's not the way things work. The early bird gets the worm, and all that. The Chargers will be hard pressed to retain Jackson's services, who is 28 and will be a free agent for the first time this year.
He sat out the first half of the season this past year due to his unhappiness over not being offered an extension last offseason, but returned in time to play just enough so that he would get credit for his time played this season, in order to still be a free agent now.
There will be lots of other teams ready and willing to line up for his services next season. So let's break out the crystal ball and take an early look at who those teams might be.
10. Minnesota Vikings
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The Vikings are a team in transition.
They'll be looking to retool after the departure, once and for all, of Brett Favre. They'll also be looking to ensure that a season like this past one, where they were riddled with injuries and inconcistency, doesn't happen again.
Jackson could provide that if he's healthy and motivated with a shiny new long term contract in place. Expected to be a contending team at the start of the season, the Vikes holes became glaring once guys started going down.
But this is a team that has been built for the present, not the future, so they'll need to think creatively to avoid a long hard fall.
I'm not saying it's a likely fit, but it's not completely impossible.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
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Hey, Cincinnati, you know how to deal with diva wide receivers.
So, how about taking on just one more? Come on, you got two already, in Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson) and Terrell Owens, so you won't even notice a third. And compared to them, Vincent Jackson will seem like a shy little boy.
Also, lets face it, Owens has a history of wearing out his welcome in places sooner rather than later, and who knows where Ocho's mind is nowadays. While they outwardly gave off the image of being best of friends, Chad did eventually start to grumble about his reduced role in the offense once T.O. came on board.
So come on, Bengals, go for the trifecta, won't you please? Then you can get Randy Moss too and just corner the market completely.
8. St. Louis Rams
The Rams showed themselves to be a team on the rise in 2010.
With number one pick Sam Bradford leading the offense, they surprised many and were actually a pretty competitive club, staying in the hunt for the division title until the last game of the season (caveat: this was the NFC West, where 7-9 won the division).
There's no reason to think they'll go backwards in 2011, especially if they can give Bradford some better targets to throw to next season. One way to accomplish that task would be to go out and get Vincent Jackson.
He'd spread the field and give Bradford a vertical option on any given play to keep defenses honest, and his speed would be well suited for the indoor turf in St. Louis.
7. Tennessee Titans
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Their top receiver in 2010 was running back Chris Johnson, with 44 catches.
Second-year wideout Kenny Britt looked promising, but otherwise, nobody's untouchable in Music City, where owner Bud Adams will be making wholesale changes this offseason.
Quarterback Vince Young will be gone, as will most of the coaching staff other than head coach Jeff Fisher. This is a team that lacks an identity. Having one of the most dangerous deep threat wideouts in the game can help them find one real quick.
They tried to take a chance on doing that by giving Randy Moss his third chance this year, but he wasn't the answer. Maybe Vincent Jackson will be.
6. Dallas Cowboys
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Dallas likes its big personalities and big egos.
Owner Jerry Jones certainly has a Texas sized one himself, and the organization has a history of welcoming big fish to its pond, whether it was Deion Sanders back in the 90's, or Terrell Owens more recently.
The Cowboys already have Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and the up-and-coming Dez Bryant, but after a 6-10 season which was actually far worse than that (they started 1-7), and included an upheaval of the coaching staff, all bets are off, and nothing is off the table.
Jackson would certainly fit well into the Cowboys attack, which (when it's running right) is as high powered as they come. And you know the team isn't looking for a long rebuilding process. Expected to be a top contender this past season, they'll be trying to reload quickly.
5. Oakland Raiders
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Al Davis' Raiders are just the team to throw caution to the wind and break the bank for Jackson.
They did it before with Randy Moss, and while he underperformed in two seasons in Oakland, Davis has always shown a stubborn streak in terms of learning from mistakes.
He's also always been enamored with pure speed. That's why the Raiders chose Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree in 2009, that's why they chose Darren McFadden in 2008, and that's why they'll be drooling over Vincent Jackson in 2011.
With Heyward-Bey continuing to struggle to assert himself in the pros, there may just be a job available.
4. Washington Redskins
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The Redskins are a team that's never afraid to make a personnel splash.
Last year's big move, of course, was the trade that brought Donovan McNabb to town. It didn't exactly work out as intended, but that won't stop them from rolling the dice again, and importing another star.
Washington's owner, Daniel Snyder, likes to tinker with his roster, and the team could definitely benefit from having a big play wideout to play alongside Santana Moss.
After another subpar season where they finished in last place in the NFC East at 6-10, all options are on the table. They could seek to get a playmaker in the draft, or they could try the market. If they choose the latter, VJ is the best guy out there.
3. San Francisco 49ers
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The 49ers are a team that seems poised for lots of changes this offseason.
Newly minted head coach Jim Harbaugh, fresh off signing a 5 year, $25 million contract, will have a mandate to turn things around in a hurry. Acquiring Jackson would be a good way to move things in that direction.
VJ would again get to stay on the West Coast, in California, and would serve as a good complement to Michael Crabtree, catching balls from whatever quarterback the Niners end up getting—it probably won't be Alex Smith.
San Francisco's top receivers this year were tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore, so another deep threat would be more than welcome.
2. Seattle Seahawks
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Seattle, despite their feel-good upset win over the Saints this past weekend, is still a team in transition.
They could certainly use an upgrade at wide receiver, as no receiver other than Mike Williams caught more than 36 passes, or gained more than 494 yards. Williams himself would certainly welcome more help, as it would take some of the pressure off of him to carry the load.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll showed this year, his first at the helm, that he's not afraid to make as many roster moves as is necessary to create a winning combination. New folk hero Marshawn Lynch was one of those moves, cast off from Buffalo earlier in the year.
And they've shown it doesn't take much to make a big difference in the NFC West. Jackson would certainly qualify as being able to make a big difference.
1. San Diego Chargers
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Despite the long and contentious holdout, Jackson and his representatives maintain that he still enjoyed his time in San Diego.
As reported by Bill Williamson of ESPN, Jackson's agent Jonathan Feinsod has said "Vincent would love to be back in San Diego", and that "It's never been personal. He loves it in San Diego".
Indeed, much of what caused the holdout in the first place was that he simply wanted the Chargers to give him a long term extension, and not have to worry about becoming a free agent.
He also still fits in the Chargers system, and San Diego is still one of the better teams out there interested in his services, with the number one rated offense in the league this past season.
Now, they don't seem likely to be willing to give him a long term deal, certainly not one for the 5 years and $50 million he'd been asking for in the past, but depending on the look of any new CBA, they seem likely to simply place a franchise tag on him, which would make things far simpler for them to keep him in the fold for at least the next year.
Anything can happen, of course, but as things stand today, I'd say there's as good a chance of this happening as anything else.