This past week, the Philadelphia Eagles signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson to a five-year deal worth around $50 million. Rather than keep Jackson for one year and pay him $9.4 million under the franchise tag, the Eagles decided the dynamic wide receiver will be with the franchise for years to come. While Jackson is a very talented receiver, he is also a problematic player who has had issues on and off the field. The fact is that the Eagles took a big risk in signing Jackson for the long-haul.
One of the biggest issues with Jackson is that he plays only when he wants to play. Last season, Jackson looked like he was taking plays off and wasn’t always focused on the game. He was suspended from the game against the Arizona Cardinals by head coach Andy Reid for missing a team meeting. For most of the season, it seemed that no one could get through to Jackson.
It can be argued that the main reason for Jackson’s undisciplined behavior was that he did not have a long-term contract. All last season, his was being severely underpaid and may have needed the security of a long-term contract to play on a consistent basis. And while this is all true, Jackson has exhibited this behavior ever since he played in the NFL (and even when he played in college). One of the most memorable examples of Jackson’s inability to remain mentally focused is when he intentionally flipped the ball away before crossing the plane of the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. The truth is that Jackson likes to showboat and will continue to make bonehead plays.
Another issue is Jackson’s vulnerability to injury. Jackson is a receiver that relies on his speed and explosiveness to create big plays. At only 5’10”, 175 pounds, Jackson avoids contact and often goes out of bounds to avoid a hit. Unfortunately, in his young career, he has already had issues with concussions. The reality is that a player of Jackson’s size is one hit away from a serious injury that could end his career. In addition, the Eagles are still lacking a big, strong receiver who can catch the fade in the corner of the end zone. For a team that has struggled in the red zone, Jackson does not help solve that problem.
Now, let’s look at his production. Last season, Jackson collected just under 1,000 receiving yards, but scored only four touchdowns. He has not had a double-digit touchdown season and has had two seasons with under five touchdowns. Top-tier receivers such as Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, who each have received big contracts, have multiple seasons with over 10 touchdowns. In addition, the physical size of these receivers makes them more durable and more dynamic threats in the red zone.
To be more fair, however, we should compare Jackson to another receiver with a more similar yearly salary. Let’s take a quick look at Andre Johnson, whose contract averages out to about nine million dollars a year. The numbers are closer, but the production of Andre Johnson still exceeds that of DeSean Jackson. He has had six seasons of five or more touchdowns, is a more physical receiver, and hasn’t had the same work ethic issues as Jackson. While Andre Johnson has had more seasons to put up these numbers, that also means he has been able to prove his consistency.
The “X-factor” for DeSean Jackson is his ability to change the outcome of the game as a punt returner. Fans remember Jackson capping off the comeback against the Giants two years ago with a game-winning punt return that would be coined “Miracle at the Meadowlands #2.” The main issue again is durability and whether Jackson can return punts without being hurt.
Finally, let’s look at Jackon’s reaction to his contract. After signing the contract, Jackson guaranteed that the Eagles will win a Super Bowl during his time in Philadelphia. Even with the money, Jackson seems to be back to his old self, talking and looking for attention. Didn’t he learn from Vince Young? Don’t make comments that draw attention from the media. There was no need for DeSean to make that comment and he needs to let his game do the talking.
While I am no business major, I know that two factors to consider when making a long-term investment with a company are consistent returns and credibility. By taking plays off and skipping meetings, Jackson has not provided consistent returns on the field. Furthermore, his boneheaded plays and big talk leads me to question his reputation. While the possible rewards are great, the potential failures are substantial, which makes the investment in DeSean Jackson a risky one for the Philadelphia Eagles.