This is the ninth in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: After a couple long years of waiting, the time finally has come for Jackson to hit the open market and receive the long-term deal he has desired. He first thought he was going to strike it rich back in the 2010, but the team instead decided to re-sign him as a restricted free agent rather than work out an extension. Jackson held out in protest at the start of the '10 season, but returned after missing seven games. He again hoped to sign a multiyear contract last summer following the lockout, but the Chargers opted to place the franchise tag on him instead. San Diego could franchise him for the second time this year, but if they did so they'd be paying him $13.7 million in 2012, 125 percent of his ’11 contract.
Notes: A two-time Pro Bowler, Jackson is one of the premier vertical threats in the NFL. He has gained more than 15 yards per reception each year he has been in the league. In 2011, he gained 18.4 yards per catch, third-highest in the league among players with 60 or more receptions. Throughout his career, 83 percent of his receptions have gone for either first downs or touchdowns. Chargers QB Philip Rivers has a lot of faith in Jackson to go up and get passes deep down the field, and the receiver's skill set is perfect for the offense that San Diego head coach Norv Turner runs.
Positives: Few receivers have the complete skill set that Jackson possesses. His combination of height (6-foot-5), weight (230 pounds), speed and leaping ability make him a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, and there are times when nothing can be done to stop him. Working in Turner's vertical passing offense, Jackson has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in his last three full seasons. He is also very athletic in the air and has made some outstanding, highlight-reel catches, including a one-handed grab in the corner of the endzone last September in a game against the Patriots.
Negatives: A questionable work ethic and selfishness have been issues for Jackson his entire career, evidenced by his holdout two seasons ago. While he can be dominant at times, he is as likely to disappear from games altogether. In 2011, he had six games where he had either one or two receptions and only four games with 100-plus yards — not exactly the type of production expected from a receiver asking for a big-time contract. There also were some questions raised about Jackson's willingness to go after certain passes, some of which resulted in interceptions.
Risk factor: Based on Jackson's history, it has to be high. Though extremely productive and successful, there is a belief that once he finally receives the long-term contract for which he has been striving, his already questionable work ethic could show up on a more regular basis. Jackson would like to stay in San Diego and continue playing with Rivers, but he is likely to head to whichever team offers him the most money over the most years. With passing becoming more and more the preferred way for teams to move the ball, top targets such as Jackson will be in high demand. The Chargers, who have several needs on both sides of the ball, might not be able — or willing — to match what another club offers.
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