TAMPA, Fla. -- DeSean Jackson is the player Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston wanted badly, and he let it be known to those close to him and publicly. Now the Bucs have a replacement for Vincent Jackson, even though he's a different type of receiver.
Here is more on the move:
Terms: Three years, $35 million with $20 million guaranteed.
ESPN 150 ranking: 17
Grade -- A+: Jackson's 4.35 speed in the 40-yard dash provides an attribute that's long been missing from the Bucs offense, and he presents a different type of challenge for opposing defenses -- they'll no longer be able to double up on the big-bodied Mike Evans and will think twice about shadowing him with their best cornerback. Evans will continue to exploit mismatches with his big catch radius, winning 50-50 balls, while Jackson can burn them downfield.
What it means: This is what head coach Dirk Koetter meant at the end of the season when he said, "We have to add some playmakers and we have to add some speed. That’s just a fact." Koetter and his staff use "explosive plays" as a metric for measuring the success or lack thereof of their offense. In terms of passing plays, an explosive play is one that gains 16 or more yards. Koetter said that they didn't have enough of those in 2016.
Since 2009, Jackson has averaged 18.14 yards per reception, the most in the league. His 2,001 yards after the catch are the most by any player since 2008. In the last two seasons, the Bucs have averaged 20.16 offensive points per game, 23rd in the league, and that is an area they need to upgrade, especially in a division that features two offensive juggernauts in the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. They also have to square off against the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers next season.
After getting Jackson, the Bucs don't have to prioritize at wide receiver in the upcoming NFL draft. They still could target one, as it is a strong class, but signing Jackson creates flexibility. They can select a pass-rusher or a tight end, a safety or even a running back with a high pick. Ideally, the Bucs want to shore up any needs in free agency to focus on "best-available" players at No. 19 in the draft and this is a huge step in the right direction.
What’s the risk: The Bucs have had terrible luck in the last three years with high-priced free-agent signings. Jackson turned 30 after the season ended but hasn't showed signs of slowing down. In fact, when the NFL released its "Next Gen Stats" for 2016, Jackson registered the third-fastest overall speed and fastest reception time -- 22.6 mph on a 59-yard pass from Kirk Cousins. The only player who measured faster than Jackson last season was rookie sensation Tyreek Hill. Even if he does show signs of slowing down, three years is far better than being stuck in a five-year deal with a player who's show significant decline.
Another risk is injury. When a player has Jackson's speed, it usually comes at the sacrifice of size. Jackson is only 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds and he lines up on the outside. That will naturally come with some wear and tear on the body. If the Bucs were to go after the fastest player in this year's draft -- Washington wide receiver John Ross, who is slightly bigger (5-11, 190) than Jackson and also worked out with him -- they'd have to be patient while Ross recovers from shoulder surgery.
As far as injuries for Jackson, he has missed 17 regular-season games in nine years and one of them was because of a suspension for violating a team rule. The most playing time he's ever missed in a season? Seven games in 2015. His 528 receiving yards that year were just about 100 fewer than what Adam Humphries, the Bucs' second-leading receiver last year, did in 15 games.