All day, the Philadelphia Eagles were making little roster moves designed to add salary-cap space. It sure looked as though they were setting up for some kind of big move, but I don't know too many people who saw this one coming.
The Eagles have announced that they have agreed to terms with wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a five-year contract through the year 2016. Adam Schefter reports that the deal is worth $51 million. Jackson was designated the Eagles' franchise player a couple of weeks ago, and he's been seeking a long-term deal from the Eagles for more than a year now. The deal that has been reached comes as a surprise, since indications during the 2011 season were that the Eagles weren't interested in extending Jackson.
But since the season ended, the team's public pronouncements have been nothing but positive about Jackson, and this appears to have been the rare case in which team officials were not misleading the press and public. They really did feel good about Jackson's future in Philadelphia -- good enough to reward him with $10 million per year (though we don't yet know how much of it is guaranteed).
Considering that Calvin Johnson of the Lions signed for seven years and $132 million ($60 million guaranteed) earlier Wednesday, this deal looks downright reasonable. It's a little less than what Vincent Jackson got from the Buccaneers and more than what Pierre Garcon got from the Washington Redskins, which also makes sense. Jackson should be priced somewhere in between those two. The Eagles basically gave Jackson a deal that represents what they believe he would cost if he'd hit the free-agent market this year, and it's tough for him to argue with that.
Now, it's on Jackson to start playing like a No. 1 wide receiver again. After averaging 62 catches for 1,034 yards in his first two seasons, Jackson saw his production dip the past two seasons. In 2011, he caught 58 passes for 961 yards and four touchdowns and was a non-factor in the punt return game, where he'd been a dominant performer in his first three years. He also sulked about his contract situation and got benched for what turned out to be a critical game against the Arizona Cardinals for missing a team meeting. Those issues, plus his relatively small stature (5-foot-10, 175 pounds officially) were the reasons the Eagles were hesitant to give him the extension. His potential, as showcased by breathtaking long touchdown catches and punt returns in prior years, is the opposing argument. That argument appears to have won out.
"We are thrilled to be able to keep one of the NFL's top playmakers in Philadelphia," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a statement released by the team. "DeSean is a game-breaker, he has the speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field, and he has proven himself to be a big threat for our offense. Signing our own players was a big priority for us this offseason and DeSean was certainly high on our list. We are very excited about his future as an Eagle."
Jackson no longer has any excuses to sulk. He's got his money. He's got his long-term security (such as it is, in a non-guaranteed NFL world). This season coming up is a make-or-break one for a lot of people around the Eagles. Jackson can help out by making good on the bet the team has now placed on him.