DeSean Jackson: Assessing risk vs. reward

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
3:45
PM ET
As owner Woody Johnson told the world this past Sunday, the New York Jets have interest in wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was released Friday by the Philadelphia Eagles. How much interest remains unclear, but they figure to be involved.

A look at some of the key factors that the Jets must weigh:

Positional need: The Jets gave Eric Decker a five-year, $36.25 million contract, but they don't have a legitimate No. 1-type receiver -- a game-breaker. Jackson, coming off an 82-catch, 1,332-yard season, has that kind of talent. The upcoming draft is rich with receiver talent, but Jackson is a proven commodity.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDeSean Jackson could be the playmaker the Jets are missing on their roster.
Economics: The Jets have tremendous flexibility. According to ESPN Stats & Information, they're about $30.4 million under the salary cap. Only one other team, the Cleveland Browns, has more cap space. General manager John Idzik, speaking earlier this week at the NFL owners meetings, said he wouldn't be opposed to having two big-money players at wide receiver. He said it would depend on future cap costs, age, etc.

Baggage: This would be a controversial signing. In his years with the Eagles, Jackson was known as a moody player who complained about his contract, missed meetings and chafed coaches with his me-first attitude. Why else would Chip Kelly unload a 27-year-old Pro-Bowl talent? On Friday, Jackson's reputation took another hit, with NJ.com reporting that the Eagles were concerned about his alleged connections to street gangs in Los Angeles. Jackson, in a statement, claimed he has no gang associations.

Philosophy: Clearly, Idzik is building for the long term, avoiding quick-fix solutions -- especially expensive ones. That's one of the reasons they took a pass on Darrelle Revis; they didn't want to get involved in a one-year arrangement. The Jets would come off as hypocrites if they take a short-term flier on Jackson, whose value has declined to the point where he might have to accept a one-year prove-it contract. The obvious question: Why wouldn't they do the same for Revis, a solid citizen with good football character?

The X factor: Former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is a close friend of Jackson's, so he'd obviously be an asset for the Jets in any type of recruiting battle. But the Vick-Jackson relationship could be a double-edged sword. League insiders suggested that Jackson's loyalty to Vick could backfire in a potentially volatile quarterback competition between Vick and Geno Smith.

The Big X factor: Johnson is smitten with Jackson's playing ability and is not afraid to pull rank, as he did last year when he instructed Idzik to trade Revis. It's not clear whether the gang-related allegations would cause Johnson to change his opinion. The Jets are taking some heat because of Vick's past; they'd be subject to additional criticism if they picked up Jackson. But Johnson made it clear he's in a win-now mode, so he might be willing to take the risk.

Familiarity: The Jets will rely heavily on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who coached Jackson in Philadelphia. They trust Mornhinweg, who was instrumental in the Vick acquisition. Mornhinweg knows that Jackson can be a diva, but he's also a coach who recognizes the need for a playmaker.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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