Eagles roll dice on difficult DeSean

Posted March 14, 2012 @ 6:15 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The Eagles and WR DeSean Jackson have gone through their share of ups and downs the past few seasons, but their relationship apparently is on an upswing. Wednesday the team announced it had signed Jackson, who had been given the franchise tag earlier, to a five-year contract worth a reported $48.5 million.

The PFW spin

Although the total amount of the deal surpasses that of new Redskins WR Pierre Garcon ($42 million) and comes up a little shy of the one Vincent Jackson ($55.5 million) received from the Buccaneers, the guaranteed money doesn't quite match up. The Eagles reportedly will pay Jackson $18 million guaranteed; Garcon's deal called for $21 million guaranteed.

And there you see where the Eagles have hedged their bet. If Jackson runs afoul, as he has before, they can cut or trade him more easily than people would think. If Jackson pulls another stunt such as missing a team meeting or holding out for training camp, there will be plenty of people asking why this deal happened in the first place. If Jackson sulks for some reason or his play wanes, as it did against the Patriots, causing his fourth-quarter benching last season, the deal will appear to blow up in the Eagles' faces.

It will hurt, but the $18 million number is not a crazy investment. Not in this NFL free-agent landscape.

From a football standpoint, the deal makes plenty of sense. Jackson, at his best, makes this offense hum. Even when he's not catching passes, Jackson's presence forces opponents into two- and three-deep defenses. That might take away some of the big plays, but it opens up other things for an offense that has top-shelf weapons in RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin, among others.

But Jackson's occasional lack of effort and his diminishing returns as a punt retuner add risk, too, on top of the questionable level of commitment. Jackson always hinted that his lack of focus was financially motivated — so the Eagles rewarded him for this? No doubt this deal carries danger and concern.

There are signs that this deal came together quickly, and as of this writing, it was difficult to tell the structure of the contract and how the Eagles might be able to get out of it if one day they have to. There's no doubting that they have some built-in protection, and Drew Rosenhaus, Jackson's agent, often signs his clients to contracts that appear bigger than they are. Translation: There's a good chance that Jackson won't earn every cent of this deal.

The Eagles clearly are going for a title. They have the talent. As much as they might not want to admit it, Jackson really is an X-factor for them. And what's the point of having a strong-armed Michael Vick (who in essence is only under contract one more year) throwing the ball if he doesn't have someone to tilt the field? Replacing Jackson and his white-hot speed would have been very difficult this season.

Andy Reid clearly is sticking his neck out there for Jackson, as he has done so many times before, and it's a mild upset that management (which had to think long and hard about Reid's place with the team after a horrendously disappointing 2011 season) green-lighted this deal. But assuming there is some protection built in, it makes some short-term sense. It's just easy to get the feeling that we'll have a different take on this contract before its five-year length runs out.