Sam Lynch’s post at Iggles Blitz provides a good framework for looking at the DeSean Jackson question. It’s important to note, as he does, that so much of your opinion is based on what you think about D-Jax.
I’ve explored that topic a few times, and I’ll stick with the assessment I made in the past of DeSean’s abilities:
Perhaps Jackson is just a unique type of player. Rather than referring to him as a “true” top wide receiver, we should just accept that he’s a “non-typical” No. 1. When we look at the whole picture, it’s clear he’s doing something different -- even if the stats are split as to what exactly that means.
To me, DeSean is a special player, and a “No. 1 wide receiver” in this offense.
With that out there, I want to look at this issue from the opposite direction that Sam did. What are the potential end-game states for the Eagles-DeSean standoff?
The Eagles use the franchise tag on DeSean, presumably don’t pursue a free agent replacement:
1. Jackson eventually signs the offer, even after missing some of training camp (who cares?). He plays out a one-year deal at $9.5 million and we put everything off for a year. This is a perfectly acceptable option to my mind and one that the wide receiver has actually said he wouldn’t have a problem with.
2. Jackson refuses to sign the offer, misses some of training camp, but the hardball talk about trades and a lost season eventually leads to a new long-term contract. This is ideal.
3. Jackson refuses to sign the offer and forces a trade. The Eagles leverage in this will be low, so they won’t able to get fair value -- although they’ll have more than if they let him walk.
4. Jackson refuses to sign, no trade, he misses the season. The parable of Vincent Jackson makes this an unlikely result.
The Eagles don’t use the franchise tag on DeSean:
5. The Eagles pounce on a free agent wideout to replace Jackson. There are three, maybe four free agent receivers who you can argue would be as good (or better in some areas) as Jackson. This scenario is attractive for its relative certainty, since there’s no need to wait at the mercy of DeSean. However, you probably have to pay about the same amount (or more) as you would for Jackson, so there’s not much upside.
6. The Eagles let the market play out, hope Jackson doesn’t get the offer he wants and comes back. High risk, high reward.
7. Forget wide receiver entirely and hope Jeremy Maclin can take over. Use a high draft pick better spent on a linebacker to try to find Jackson replacement. Ugh.
Options 1, 2, and 5 would all be good outcomes for 2012. At least 3 nets you something in a trade. 4 and 7 are awful, and hopefully unlikely. 6 is basically a mixed strategy of 1 and 7.
All told, I would franchise DeSean and take it from there. Letting him hit the free agent market seems sub-optimal from a number of areas -- unless there’s a receiver you’re confident you can sign who’s also an improvement on Jackson. I doubt those two requirements are fulfilled.
There’s an outside chance Jackson has been telling the truth with regard to not minding the franchise tag. If not, you play hardball but engage in negotiations after the wide receiver market is more clearly set by one or two free-agent deals. Worst case scenario you get something back in a trade.
That’s what I would do, anyway. Of course, I’d also have struck a deal with DeSean six months ago. So maybe, just maybe, the Eagles front office isn’t actually listening to me.