I have two problems with DeSean Jackson's decision to hold out, a decision that, according to Howard Eskin, is going to last quite a while. One reason is the hokey, do-what's-right-for-the-fans, wag-my-finger, holier-than-thou type of appeal that will probably fall on deaf ears to Jackson and his camp. But the other, he might actually have an interest in.
First, the principled reason.
The lockout just ended, finally restoring America's greatest sports passion to the people it belongs: the public. Both the players and owners dodged a huge bullet by reaching a CBA in time to salvage every bit of the 2011 NFL season, save the Hall of Fame game.
There was enough greed on both sides to make fans feel sick to their stomach—virtually every team sells out, NFL merchandise is ridiculously expensive yet sells like gangbusters, and the television contracts are measured in the billions, not millions. It was hard for the fans and "regular" people to see even the slightest bit of financial woe in the NFL, let alone enough to halt the 2011 season.
Jackson holding out only reintroduces that issue to the public and starts to inspire more animosity towards the players (not just Jackson), but all players and eventually all the owners. In short, Jackson is in danger of undoing some, not all, of the goodwill the end of the lockout brought us.
Of course Jackson and his agent don't care about that. They care about getting paid. And to some extent I can appreciate that. Was there a more explosive, game-changing player in the NFL last year than Jackson?
If you saw the Eagles win over the Giants in the New Meadowlands or the first play of their Monday Night game in Washington or his effort in Dallas in mid-December (note all those games were on the road against hated NFC East rivals), your answer should be "no."
So the fact that Jackson—-who was a second-round pick back in 2008—is only scheduled to make $565,000 this year is a bit maddening, especially when you consider Nate Burleson is going to make $2.875 million this year. And since Jackson has already suffered a few concussions that could shorten his career and number of paychecks, drastically.
Still, the cliche "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" seems apt here. Sure Jackson can hold out now; maybe the Eagles will give him a $2 million or $3 million per year extension, and he'll feel like he's won. But Philly is not going to pay him top dollar now; they may give him more than they wanted to, but they'll meet at some halfway point.
Now if Jackson returns to camp—earning a little bit of good PR by doing so—and has another good year in 2011, I bet next spring he can get double or even triple what he would get now. Would anyone question the Eagles or some other team making Jackson the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL next season? I wouldn't. Holding out isn't for your contract year; it's for the time when you have three or four years left on your deal.
Bad timing on Jackson's part...in every way possible.