DeSean Jackson returning to the Eagles makes sense, but it's no slam dunk
There is a legitimate chance Jackson ends up somewhere besides Philadelphia in 2017
It doesn't take long in the NFL offseason for "conventional wisdom" to take hold. You hear something a few times and read something a few times, and then before you know it, like a byzantine game of telephone, it begins to get repeated over and over. It becomes the gospel for the group-think.
Take this week for example, as I reached out to personnel gurus and salary cap experts around the league about this underwhelming group of free agents about to hit the market.
Whenever talk would turn to the receiver class I'd quickly here something along the lines of -- "DeSean Jackson is going back to Philadelphia." When discussing free agent receivers with some teams, I got off the phone and was struck by the fact that the name of the explosive deep threat never even came up. It was almost as if some receiver-needy clubs were chalking up the assumption as a certainty. Like that was just the way it was going to go, because enough people have opined about this natural reunion of the once beloved Eagle and the team that drafted him.
In another month we'll know for sure.
In the meantime, I'd say, there is a legitimate chance he ends up somewhere besides Philadelphia, and, at age 30, I'd anticipate there being a good number of suitors for his services.
Could Jackson go back to Philly, where general manager Howie Roseman watched him emerge as one of the most explosive players in the game only to have arch nemesis and former coach Chip Kelly run him out of town (along with LeSean McCoy and others)? Of course he could. Absolutely. And it would make sense on a lot of levels.
And make no mistake, while the Eagles can't splurge on trades and free agency as they did a year ago, they are very much the central team to monitor in terms of receiver free agents as they are doing extensive work on many of them. They desperately want to add weapons for young quarterback Carson Wentz. That has to happen.
But Jackson isn't the only option. Several league sources anticipate the Eagles being in on Alshon Jeffery (Bears) and Philadelphia was aggressive in exploring trade options in-season on other receivers as well, like Torrey Smith (San Francisco), and they need to add more than one pass catcher this offseason.
It's not a slam dunk that Jackson is back-son (sorry, couldn't resist). There aren't many legit options to add a difference-maker in this free agent class, and while Jackson has suffered some injuries and while guys like Brandon Marshall, Danny Amendola and Mike Wallace could become cap casualties soon enough and join the list of available receivers, it's still a very shallow pool.
I'd be somewhat shocked, for instance, if teams like Tampa Bay and Tennessee, who both need to build around potential franchise quarterbacks, are not very interested in Jackson. Would the Ravens at the right price point view Jackson as superior to Wallace, who would be owed $8 million in the final year of his two-year deal?
The only free agent receiver who had more yards than Jackson (1,005) last season was his Washington teammate, Pierre Garcon (1,041, while playing one more game than Jackson), and Jackson's average of 17.9 yards per catch are far and away the best of this bunch, more than 2 yards per catch above Jeffery.
Wanna go back the past four seasons? Jackson is 13th in yards, and doesn't get the volume of a lot of other receivers, so his touchdown numbers aren't spectacular, either. But since 2013 he's first in the NFL in yards per catch (18.0), fifth in catches of 25 yards or longer (53, behind only T.Y. Hilton, 56, and Antonio Brown, 57), and third among qualifying receivers in YAC/reception (6.4).
How about we go all the way back to 2008, when Jackson entered the NFL? Since that time only four receivers have more yards, no one has a higher yards per catch (17.7), and no one has more catches of 25 yards or longer (Jackson has 112, the retired Calvin Johnson is next with 99).
I'd call that a fairly legitimate body of work. Certainly enough to stir interest up well beyond the Eagles.
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