From a purely football standpoint, the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't have found a better wide receiver for their balky passing game than DeSean Jackson. He definitely would have provided life to a group of wide receivers that was last in the NFL in 2013 in targets, catches and yardage.
Since 2008 Jackson has 21 touchdowns of 30 or more yards and was third in average yards per catch at 17.2 for the Philadelphia Eagles, who released him last week. Add in the fact Jackson thrived for the first five seasons of his NFL career playing for Andy Reid, now coaching the Chiefs, and Jackson coming to Kansas City seemed to make a lot of sense.
But the Chiefs will look elsewhere, probably to the draft, for that receiving help. After making some initial inquiries into Jackson's availability, the Chiefs backed off, reportedly because of cost concerns.
The Chiefs, who have about $4.5 million of remaining cap space, could have found a way to squeeze Jackson's salary under their limit. But at what cost? The Chiefs would like to re-sign quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Justin Houston before they can become free agents next year. Neither will come at a favorable price. Safety Eric Berry is among the players who could become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 and he too will be expensive.
Signing Jackson at top dollar would have cost them one of those players and perhaps more. But there's something else at work here. Adding Jackson would have smelled of panic. It would have been a sign the Chiefs were veering away from their plan, making it up on the fly. You can argue the merits of their plan, but Reid and general manager John Dorsey prefer to find their stars, the players they build the foundation around, through the draft and not as free agents.
Listen closely to what Reid said recently about free agency.
"Listen, I'm not a huge free-agency guy," Reid said last week at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla. "I don't think you build a team that way. I think you build it through a draft. There are so many elements that go into a player actually fitting into your program and being successful, that if you get them right when they're peaking in that system and then you disrupt that and move them on to another system, that can be tough. So, the percentage has dropped, the success rate has dropped. I think you spot a guy here or there.
"Then you have the other element that it has the chance to disrupt your locker room. This guy has been with me for 10 years and is making X amount and then all of the sudden you bring in a free agent who might be as good, but maybe not as good, and you're paying him way up here and all of the sudden you have this rift that goes on in the locker room. I think you have to be real, real careful on who you bring in and how you do it.”
Adding Jackson at something less than a premium price might have made sense. The Chiefs wouldn't need to guess about projecting how Jackson might do in Reid's system. They could look at his production from those five seasons they were together with the Eagles.
But the Chiefs made their decision, for better or for worse, about a high-priced wide receiver last year when they re-signed Dwayne Bowe for five years and $56 million. That's about all a team can reasonably afford without gutting another part of the roster.
That's not to say a move of this nature would always be a bad move for the Chiefs. When their salary cap is in better shape and the signing of a big-money player like Jackson might reasonably put the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, they should go for it, by all means.
And there will be a time and place. But this wasn't it.