|DeSean Jackson has the talent to be a great wide receiver, but is the mental makeup there? (US Presswire)|
This is what I can tell you definitively about the Eagles and DeSean Jackson: their franchise tag marriage is an arranged one. Not one of passion, not one of dedication, despite the public and almost laughable declarations from the Philly brass that they love Jackson.
"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in a statement. "DeSean is a talented player and a proven playmaker in this league and we look forward to him continuing his career in Philadelphia. It's our understanding that he has the same desire. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him."
The Eagles are one of the best-run and classiest franchises in the NFL but no one in the sport believes that quote from Roseman. Nobody. They read that quote and likely broke into a giggle fit.
Several NFL sources said there is a debate within the Eagles hierarchy about whether or not the team can truly trust Jackson with a long-term deal. The Eagles, one league source explained, are also open to a trade for Jackson. In other words, the Eagles wouldn't mind if some sucker, er, team, took Jackson off their hands for a nice piece of draft compensation.
To be clear the Eagles hope Jackson can clean up what at times has been a disgraceful act and can become a steady, productive member of the team. But there are doubts. And there should be doubts. Jackson has more than earned them.
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You want to truly understand why the Eagles struggled last year when so many picked star-studded Philadelphia to win a Super Bowl, an NBA title, a Stanley Cup and an Oscar? It wasn't a talent gap, it was a character gap.
The Eagles are loaded with all-world quarterbacks, all-galaxy cornerbacks, great running backs -- everything. So then why did Philadelphia go 8-8? Because this is a team that at times last season lacked innards. There are good-guy Eagles, no question, but they don’t have enough players that can grab the team by its testicles and lead.
Look around the league at the championship franchises. The Giants are a team overloaded with gutsy and rugged players. Look at the Patriots. Look at the Packers. Look at the Steelers.
Jackson has proved more times than not he's a front-runner. These types of players usually don't win.
Jackson isn't a criminal. He's also not Michael Irvin, but he is Randy Moss. The bigger the moment, the more that cardiac muscle shrinks. He was deactivated one week last season after missing a team meeting. Not a capital case. Neither was his training camp holdout, but both were parts of an unshakeable trend. There was the post-catch taunting penalty against the Giants that cost Philadelphia 50 yards of field position. When the Eagles truly needed him in another game because fellow receiver Jeremy Maclin was injured, Jackson was benched for lack of effort.
Jackson has played through big hits and concussions and some will say that's proof of his toughness, but truth is all NFL players go through that. The true greats, the mentally tough, the Elis and Donald Drivers and Wes Welkers and Hakeem Nicks' -- they can be counted on all the time.
They lead when it's uncomfortable and when things look the bleakest. Hines Ward is at the end of his career but at his peak Ward had more heart than almost any player in the NFL and he had a fraction of the skill Jackson possessed.
Jackson has a ton of talent but that ability is often nullified by an extreme state of knucklehead and what seems to be a tendency to look for stats over winning. He deserves to be paid that's for certain (the Eagles have gotten him on the cheap), but he’s got to earn the trust of a franchise that needs leaders and sometimes seems like it lacks them.
DeSean Jackson was franchised but the question remains: can a franchise truly trust him?