Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson understands two things about the situation: The Redskins had excellent receiving talent the past two years, and it’s a business. The latter might make it tough to keep the former together.
"Here we built that camaraderie," Jackson said during an interview on team-owned Redskins Nation TV. "We’re very close to being a championship team. So long as we’re able to keep the pieces to the puzzle together. They’ve got a huge task in front of them speaking of the front office. Somehow, someway if they can make it happen this team, these guys we have together can be very special down the road."
Making it happen could be difficult.
The Redskins have yet to discuss a new contract with Jackson or their other free agents. That’s not a surprise; most business gets heavily discussed -- unofficially and through a lot of winks, of course -- during the scouting combine later this month, and about a week before free agency. For both sides, it’s the best way to gauge their possible market.
Jackson will be one of the top free-agent receivers available, along with Garcon. Both have said they want to return; players typically say that. But it's clear they won't settle for any sort of hometown discount, and from the start there has been a real likelihood of both departing.
"I do want to still be here," Jackson told host, and Redskins play-by-play man, Larry Michael. "My family, my house, I have everything here. Hopefully [we] can make it work. But this is a business and it’s the NFL. Things happen. I’m excited about the opportunity I have to sit back and now the ball’s kind of in my corner a little bit. ... I’ll let my agent take care of all that and sit back and whatever the offers come in and take the best offer. Obviously I do want to be here."
Garcon can anticipate a $9 million per year payday -- and league insiders expect Jackson to ask for more. His big-play ability might help him get there, which could then limit Washington’s desire to match or top that figure. Teams that want receivers who can stretch the field -- Tampa Bay with Jameis Winston comes to mind; as does his former team, Philadelphia -- will desire Jackson.
That’s why there’s just as much of a chance that Jackson and Garcon will be gone as there is one of them will return. Still, Jackson has been working out at Redskins Park. He’s coming off a season in which he caught 56 passes for 1,005 yards. He has averaged 19.03 yards per catch in three years with Washington. Both he and Garcon surpassed 1,000 yards in 2016.
"I’m really trying to build on having 1,000 yards," Jackson said. "Our receiving corps, with Pierre, with Jamison [Crowder], the young talent we have here, we really think it’s a lot of upside to us. Hopefully we can build on that.
"That combination is awesome. It’s deadly. A lot of defensive coordinators don’t like seeing it. Kirk, the past two years, has done some great things statwise, and it’s still a lot out there we left, that we all feel we could be so much better."
Jackson turned 30 in December; he hasn’t slowed down.
"They say I’m getting older, I still feel I’m 26," Jackson said. "I can still roll like them young dudes. It’s a big year for me and my career, where I’m at and even where we’re at with the Redskins. Me being an addition to that can definitely be a positive influence. But wherever [free agency] takes me I’ll still put in the work, run fast and do all the acrobatical things I’ve done in my career."
He’ll enter this period far differently than he did three years ago when Philadelphia cut him. Rumors about off-field concerns crept up.
"The image they put out on me, I had three years to prove to everyone 'No, he’s not that type of guy,'" Jackson said. "'He's a team guy. He loves to get the ball' -- what receiver do you want on the team who doesn't want to get the ball? And then as far as how I am around the locker room, with teammates and all the guys, the coaches, I proved and showed everybody. I haven’t gotten in trouble off the field. I’ve done everything. I’m a family man. I’m a man about business who wants to go out there and keep producing."