Friday, July 29, 2011
Eagles' next move: Pay DeSean Jackson
By Dan Graziano
A new contract for DeSean Jackson now has to be Philadelphia's top priority.
Thursday and Friday were great, great days for the Philadelphia Eagles, locking up Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young and a couple of other key pieces to the Super Bowl run they've clearly announced their plans to make. Friday was a good night to be Andy Reid and Howie Roseman and Joe Banner. They had every reason to hit their pillows confident in the belief that they'd done great things for their football franchise.
But when those three men wake up Saturday, there will still be a couple of items on their to-do list. And the most important has now become a new contract for top receiver DeSean Jackson.
Jackson has made it clear, in case you haven't been following, that he's unhappy with his contract. He should be. A base salary of $565,000 is utterly pitiful for a player of Jackson's abilities and accomplishments. There can't be a single person drawing breath at Lehigh University right now who disputes that. NFL players in Jackson's situation get their contracts re-worked all the time, and who knows? If the lockout hadn't wiped out the league's spring and most of its summer, Jackson and the Eagles might have had something worked out right now.
But it did, and they don't, and Jackson's not in camp and the Eagles have to do what they can to make it right. Signing Asomugha and Young and Jason Babin... those are all wonderful moves that will surely help the Eagles "fly on the road to victory," as their incongruous team song urges them to do. But by making all of these Super Bowl-directed moves, they've put themselves in a position from which they have little choice but to square things with Jackson.
"The two situations are not interrelated," team president Banner told ESPN.com's Ashley Fox in the wake of the Asomugha news Friday. "DeSean's situation will play out in whatever way it does. We're going to see what happens here. I'm not going to go down the path on that one way or the other."
Non-committal, which is fine. They may well be working on something about which we don't know. Wouldn't be the first time. Wouldn't be the first time this week, even. But if they're not, they're going to have to start soon. Because the Eagles are obviously determined to win this season's Super Bowl, and given everything else they're doing they can't afford to risk letting Jackson's situation wreck it.
If they don't feel like making the long-term decision on Jackson now, I can see their reasons to hesitate. Maybe they're worried he has some diva tendencies. (Counter-argument: He's not the first top receiver about whom that's been said.) Maybe they wonder why they should give No. 1 receiver money to a guy who only caught 47 passes in 2010. (Counter-argument: But Jackson's one of the most dangerous and thrilling players in the league when the ball is in his hands. And if it's not in his hands enough ... well, that would seem to be a correctable problem, now wouldn't it?) Jackson is no sure bet for future reliability, and their concerns may be real and even justified.
But I just don't see how they have a choice in the matter now, after all they've been doing. Jackson is surely watching all of these signings and aware that the Eagles aren't afraid of spending money. He knows his salary is way too low and knows they do too. If adding years and down-the-road dollars is what they need to do in order to get this year's number up to respectability, then they must. This season has become the only priority, and taking a future-years risk to protect that priority has become a necessary step.
Roseman, the general manager, spoke Friday night about how well the Eagles have positioned themselves for the present and the future, especially with the pick they got in the Kevin Kolb deal. If they throw Jackson's future into doubt, they're throwing the rest of the team's future right in there with it. Jackson isn't going to play for that weak salary, and the longer this dispute goes, the higher it takes the risk of doing something that damages this season.
The Eagles' moves so far this offseason have been bold and aggressive and clearly directed at the highest of possible goals. They need to make at least one more move that fits that description. They need to bite the bullet and give Jackson his money. After the two days they just had, they really don't have much choice.