Looks like we spoke too soon with our earlier post about the Eagles and the franchise tag.
The team announced today that it has franchised wide receiver DeSean Jackson. He would have become a free agent on March 13, but the expectation was that it was never going to get to that point.
“We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman in a statement. “DeSean is a talented player and a proven playmaker in this league and we look forward to him continuing his career in Philadelphia. It’s our understanding that he has the same desire. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him.”
While that might be what each side desires, clearly the path to get there is difficult. What the Eagles perceive as Jackson's value and what he and agent Drew Rosenhaus perceive is far different. Teams have until July 15 to sign a player who has been tagged.
If Jackson signs the franchise tag, he would be guaranteed $9.4 million for next season on a 1-year deal. When the 2011 season ended, Jackson said this wouldn't be a problem, but his comment in the postgame locker room was hardly signed and notarized. He declined to comment at the NFL awards show during Super Bowl weekend.
The Eagles could still trade Jackson but a team would have to agree to what the Eagles would want in compensation and then agree with Jackson on a long-term deal. That seems a very unlikely scenario.
Before the tag was applied, Rosenhaus told SiriusXM, “As an agent, you really hope that your players aren’t franchised. You would like a guy who has played out his contract to have an opportunity to go and talk to other teams. A lot of guys go into free agency and sign with their teams."
"If a player is franchised, it certainly doesn't mean that you have to play for that franchise tag for that year," he said later. "You obviously have the opportunity to get a deal done afterwards, before camp starts, you have time to work out a long-term contract.
"If my clients get franchised, believe me we're going to roll up our sleeves and hope that we can convert that into a multi-year deal."
The franchise tag has been available for use by NFL teams since Feb. 20. Nobody has been tagged. How come?
It's a question of particular concern here in Philadelphia, where the Eagles are widely expected to tag wideout DeSean Jackson by the deadline, this coming Monday at 4 p.m.
Nobody I've talked to has a single, all-encompassing explanation for the lack of activity. There could be several factors. Some teams (not the Eagles, though) might have more than one player they might want to franchise, or threaten to franchise, to get a contract done this week. You can only use the tag once, and unlike under the previous CBA, you can't use the franchise and transition tag in the same year.
Even if they just have one potential target, some teams (and again, I don't think this is the Eagles) might be trying to work out a long-term deal with the guy they could end up franchising, and are keeping the tag in their pocket as a last resort.
But mostly, the problem seems to be, stuff happens around deadlines, and the deadline is Monday. Why show your hand before then? There might be some tiny strategic edge to be gained by not franchising until the last minute, not letting other teams know that Player X is or is not going to be a free agent come Wednesday, March 13.
The one thing we do know is that according to ESPN.com, the Steelers will not franchise wideout Mike Wallace. That was a relatively easy decision because Wallace is only going to be a restricted free agent. Pittsburgh apparently plans to tender Wallace, meaning they can match an offer from another team, or get a first-round draft pick in compensation.
Should the Eagles let DeSean walk into unrestricted free agency for nothing and then try to spend their first-round pick, 15th overall, on Wallace? Absolutely not. The difference between Wallace and Jackson is negligible. The 15th overall pick in the draft is a solid asset. That would be a real Redskins kinda move, the sort that doesn't make you much better right now and slowly suffocates you down the road, as you keep having to look to free agency to fill holes that should have been filled by picks you traded away. Not to mention the squandering of an asset like Jackson. As I've said before, if a two-time Pro Bowl wideout walks out of here for nothing at age 25, somebody should be fired.
The Eagles have put it out there that they would like to trade DeSean, but tag-and-trade is a tough maneuver, rarely executed. They know that. In fact, I guess all I'm really sure of is that the Eagles WANT DeSean and agent Drew Rosenhaus to THINK they'd like to tag and trade him, maybe to a less appealing situation, as a way of applying leverage toward a longer-term deal.
Unless the Birds really do plan to let their rights lapse -- which, again, would be complete malfeasance -- Monday won't be the end of the saga. We'll have the drama over whether they'll actually be able to trade him, whether he'll actually sign the franchise tender and be happy with it, and so on, and on, and on.