- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Louis Riddick understands what having DeSean Jackson means for a team -- the good and the bad -- having arrived in Philadelphia the same year as Jackson (2008) and rising to the Eagles' director of pro personnel two years later. Riddick, now an ESPN NFL Insider, offers insight into what must happen for a team that wants to sign Jackson. There will be more in part 2 later Monday. Jackson arrives in Washington Monday, but the bulk of his visit will take place Tuesday, a team source said.
Is DeSean that hard to handle?
Louis Riddick: "I don't consider handle the right word… Even though he'd come to a team with a blank slate as their ability to be influenced or coached into the type of player you want them to be, they have their background experience and habits even at a young age. DeSean definitely has his and some guys are more difficult than others. He presents a challenge greater than other kids, but also part of what made him who he was and what made him special other than his natural physical gifts. As it pertains to now, you have to have a plan for him -- you'd have to have one for every free agent. Dealing with a guy does things how he particularly does things and has a pattern of behavior as far as how he is in the building, in the weight room, the training room, in the classroom, on the practice field. You have to have a plan to deal with that to know if it's not fitting in with the way you like to do things. As players get deeper in their career, they become more set in their ways. The more you pay them, the more leverage and clout they have, the more your plan better be intact for dealing with all those things that could come up.
"The last thing is you better have good leadership in place whether it be from ownership down through the front office and administration to the head coach to the assistant coaches and into the locker room, that you have players he respects and looks up to to a certain degree and doesn't want to disappoint. ... But it's not just a talent acquisition as everyone knows. This is an implementation question, a management question. DeSean is getting older so he's naturally maturing at whatever pace. You hope he realizes that, ‘I can't do some of the things I used to do when I was younger. I can't act certain ways as far as being a teammate and practicing.' You have to help him along with that. Some players require more management than others. It's burned many in the past when acquiring a vet and will burn many in the future if they don't take the implementation plan seriously. You can't get so hung up on and mesmerized and intoxicated by speed and playmaking ability. He had all that in Philadelphia. Obviously he had other issues they felt superseded that. Knowing that it has to be your primary focus if you do sign him, then go for it."
Is it telling to you that Andy Reid and the Chiefs backed out and Marty Mornhinweg and the Jets did as well? Both of those coaches know him well.
Riddick: "It says some things to you in the sense that they do have more knowledge than anyone else. But at the same time, it's not just that. In Kansas City's situation, they have a tight salary cap and they're also trying to build through the draft, trying to be methodical on how they construct a team from a long-term perspective and sometimes that supersedes going out and trying to acquire a player that will put a strain on the team and that doesn't fit into the long-term plan. If they really wanted to, could they do it? Sure. Those are the two teams that could make the most informed decision. "
Is Washington a good place for him?
Riddick: "How strong is the leadership there in the locker room? How strong is the head coach as a leader? Though Bruce Allen has been a GM, it's the first year he's in charge and not Mike Shanahan. There are a lot of unknowns. There are a lot of procedure and protocols in place that have not been tested and one is how do you deal with bringing in a volatile player who can be a handful to deal with, but is supremely talented. How do you balance the skills and addition he can make on the field to potentially being someone who doesn't fit in your locker room. I wouldn't blame them for being conservative with it and ultimately deciding this is the dollar figure we'll go to and after that we're out. It would be prudent to do so. If they're confident enough in their way of doing things, then they'll do it. If Dan [Snyder] wants the player, if he's that active -- I've been led to believe he's not -- you know how persuasive he can be. It's a tricky situation for them. They better be sure they have a plan and I'd say that for any team. I've been place where there wasn't a plan for dealing with a player as a person and it just blew up. It was bad business. In this case you have to do your due diligence and do it very thoroughly ... Obviously there's no secret about DeSean [and his issues] and I'm not talking about the gang nonsense. I don't know anything about that. But I've seen what happens when you just look at the player and how you'll use him on the field and then think about his off-field [behavior], 'We'll just figure it out.' It's such a recipe for disaster I can't begin to tell you how ridiculous that is. You can't do that here. You have to make sure you know what you're doing."