Honestly, I was of the opinion that a franchise tag for Desean Jackson (assuming they don’t work out a long term deal soon) was a forgone conclusion under the logic that the Eagles were very unlikely to allow a player as valuable as Desean to simply walk away without some compensation. For instance, they could franchise Desean and swing him to another team. However, I am not so sure anymore after taking a look at the numbers.
1. The Franchise Tag: A new nuance of the recently signed collective bargaining agreement is that the franchise has changed from an average of the Top 5 salaries at the position in the league to a much more complicated system where the number is formed by determining through the franchise tags numbers at that position over the last five years as a percentage of the overall cap figure in each of those five years. Huh? Well, simply put, the franchise numbers will be coming down across the board, but not much (at least if your consider a few million dollars “not much”, however, this is a drop in the bucket for NFL teams). To illustrate, the WR franchise number goes down from $11.4 in 2011 to $9.4 this year. So, no brainer right, lock him up? Not so fast. Let’s look at some of the numbers:
TOP 10 WR Salaries in the NFL (not taking into account signing bonuses or cap impact):
|1||L. Fitzgerald (ARZ)||$20.0 MM|
|2||C. Johnson (DET)||$8.875 MM|
|3||M. Austin (DAL)||$8.54 MM|
|4||S. Smith (CAR)||$7.0 MM|
|5||B. Marshall (MIA)||$6.5 MM|
|6||A. Johnson (HOU)||$6.0 MM|
|6||A. Boldin (BAL)||$6.0 MM|
|7||R. Wayne (IND)||$5.95 MM|
|8||D. Driver (GB)||$4.1 MM|
|9||R. White (ATL)||$4.0 MM|
One disclaimer on the list above, it does not include the actual cap impact of a player, so there certainly could be other players making much more than this who might make it into the Top 10. Still, this is a better reflection of the potential impact, since if the Eagles franchised Desean, they would have to pay him the full $9.4 MM next year. Speaking of which, and as you can see above, this would instantly make Jackson the 2nd highest paid WR (salary wise) in the NFL. Look, I like Desean A LOT. He is one of the most explosive players in Eagles history. But, the bottom line is that his production does not sniff that of really any of the players above (however, there are more small guys than I thought, eg. Austin, Smith, Driver for instance). Secondly, paying Desean almost $10 MM this year would get you nearly half way there in guaranteed money if the Eagles were able to sign him to a long term extension (for instance, Santonio Holmes received $24 MM in guaranteed cash last year and is comparable to Jackson in production). So, think the Eagles would be willing? Call me skeptical, given the caliber of players above and what they are making. Additionally, the following list is enlightening as well:
EAGLES TOP 15 SALARIES 2011, INCLUDING CAP HIT TO THE RIGHT
What jumps out above? (other then the fact Asante Samuel will not be back and that Steve Smith is one of the biggest stiffs ever). Well, if given the franchise tag, Jackson would easily be the 3rd highest paid player on the Eagles, blowing away the likes of Peters, Babin, Cole, and nipping on the heels of Asomugha. Something tells me this does not sit well with the Eagles. Add to this Jackson’s attitude problems, and suddenly the franchise tag doesn’t look as likely. Also, ask yourself this: Would you rather pay Desean Jackson $10 MM or Marques Colston or Vincent Jackson (or maybe even Lesean McCoy who is due for an extension as well)? Now, it is becoming even less likely the franchise tag is used. Is it still possible? Sure. But, I am certainly much less convinced then I was before looking at the numbers.
2. The Transition Tag: This is a rather forgotten option at times, and little used by teams. Largely because you receive no compensation from other teams if someone swoops in and blows your player away with an offer. Really, it just gives you a right to match any offers. However, last season the Eagles attempted to use this on David Akers and he refused to sign, if you remember. Anyway, this doesn’t look very promising either. The transition tag uses the same formula as the franchise tag, except it is based on the Top 10 salaries at the position. The result? A whooping $1MM comes off the WR number to around $8.4 MM. So, pretty minimal impact, but perhaps more digestible number for the Eagles. Also, remember, there would be no compensation if another team blew away the Eagles with an offer to Jackson.
So, where does this leave us? Who knows, but it seems to come down to them agreeing on a long term deal. The Eagles have been very complimentary of Jackson as of late, with Reid floating complements bizarrely about his “maturity” and of being “proud of him”. Roseman got into the act as well saying “We feel fortunate to have him as a part of our team” and that “[Jackson]…has a great future ahead of him” (With another team perhaps?). This is all fine and dandy, but given their history, a long term looks unlikely, especially with Rosenhaus involved as Jackson’s agent. My take? I think the Eagles are playing it cool and are going to see what the market does with respect to Jackson. If teams are not jumping at the chance and offering huge money, I think the Eagles hope they can swoop in and pay him something much more frugal. Maybe this approach makes financial sense, but what happens if someone blows them away and strikes quick? The Eagles have the tendency to go into “wait and see” mode in these situations, and invariably teams beat them to the punch. All I know is, they better have a contingency plan in place to get another receiver if Jackson doesn’t work out, because I refuse to go back to the Na Brown era.