There are two scenarios in which teams around the league will have a chance to acquire DeSean Jackson this offseason.
If the Eagles don't franchise Jackson AND don't come to a long-term agreement with him, he'll become an unrestricted free agent.
If the Eagles decide to franchise Jackson, they could still look to trade him. But that would require two things:
1. A potential trade partner meeting the Eagles' asking price, in terms of compensation.
2. A potential trade partner coming to terms on a long-term agreement with Jackson (and Drew Rosenhaus).
In other words, it could happen. But it's not as simple as it sounds.
League sources tell the Daily News' Paul Domowitch that Jackson's opinion of his worth continues to be far different from the Eagles'. So it doesn't look like this situation is going to be resolved any time soon.
An important factor to consider is Jackson's place in the wide receiver market. Teams looking for pass-catching help could have some attractive options this offseason.
RotoWorld.com has a list out of pending free-agent wide receivers. Below is a breakdown of how some of the marquee names stack up statistically, using numbers from the past three seasons.
The columns are: age, receptions per game, yards per game, yards per catch, touchdowns and drop rate, which is a simple metric from Pro Football Focus that measures percentage of catchable balls that were dropped. In other words, the lower the drop rate, the better.
I realize there are a lot of numbers here. Let's break them down by category.
DeSean is the youngest of the group. It feels like he's been with the Eagles forever, but DeSean just turned 25 in December. Everyone on the list above is 30 or younger, except for Wayne. And there are a couple other names that I didn't include, like New Orleans' Robert Meachem (27) and the Giants' Mario Manningham (25).
Welker leads the group in catches per game and yards per game, although we have to take quarterback situations into account. While Welker's been catching balls from Tom Brady, Johnson, Lloyd and Bowe have dealt with far accomplished passing partners.
Welker, Lloyd and Wayne have averaged more yards per game than DeSean. Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Colston, DeSean Jackson, Wayne and Lloyd all fall between 67.7 and 76.7 yards per game.
Welker, Wayne and Colston average the most catches per game.
DeSean does the most damage among the group when he catches the ball. Only three of the receivers above have averaged more than 15 yards per catch in the past three seasons: DeSean (19.0), Vincent Jackson (17.8) and Lloyd (16.3). Those are the home run hitters.
HANDS AND DROP RATE
To reiterate, drop rate is simply the percentage of catchable balls that are dropped. DeSean has the worst hands among this group, dropping 13.1 percent of the catchable balls thrown his way in the past three seasons (I wrote more about that in December). In 2011, he had nine drops in the Eagles' first 10 games, but zero drops in the final five.
Vincent Jackson's drop rate was 11.8 percent last season, but overall, he's had excellent hands (6.9 percent).
Bowe, Johnson and Garcon have all had their fair share of issues with drops.
DeSean has just four red-zone touchdowns in the past three seasons, the fewest of any receiver in this group. Welker (41 catches, 15 touchdowns) and Colston (35 catches, 15 touchdowns) have been the best red-zone receivers.
Bowe, (13 RZ TDs), Wayne (13 RZ TDs), Johnson (12 RZ TDs) and Vincent Jackson (11 RZ TDs) have all been far bigger threats in the red zone than DeSean.
As for overall touchdowns, Bowe and Colston (24 apiece) have the most in this group. To be fair, I shuold note that DeSean has had three non-receiving touchdowns in the past three seasons.
WHO WILL BE AVAILABLE?
While none of the wide receivers on the list above are currently under contract for 2012, that could change. Some could be hit with the franchise tag; others could agree to long-term deals with their current teams.
Teams can use the franchise tag between Feb. 20 and March 5. Free agency begins at 4 p.m. on March 13.
Some notes and links on where things stand now with a few of them:
Vincent Jackson wants to stay in San Diego, and the Chargers want to keep him, according to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post. But the two sides would obviously need to agree on terms.
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft has gone on record saying he wants Welker back.
As of Friday, the Bills and Johnson had not had contract talks, according to his agent.
You'd think the Saints and Chiefs, respectively, would want Colston and Bowe back, given their track records, but nothing has been decided in either case.
It's important to keep an eye on how some of these other contract situations play out when considering Jackson's future. Back in August, I made the argument that DeSean was as valuable as Santonio Holmes, but after 2011, the Jets look silly for giving Holmes a five-year, $50M contract with $24M guaranteed.
Vincent Jackson's situation could be of particular interest to DeSean and the Eagles. Both Vincent Jackson and DeSean are big-play receivers, not high-volume guys. Their numbers, in terms of catches, yards and touchdowns are relatively similar. Vincent Jackson (6-5, 241) is much bigger, has better hands is more of a threat in the red zone. DeSean, however, is four years younger and can do damage as a return man (even though he was quiet in that role last season).
If the Eagles decide to part ways with DeSean, they could make a play for one of the other free agent receivers. Or they could try to replace DeSean with a high draft pick.
We are about six weeks away from the start of free agency, but keep an eye on which of the receivers above work out new deals with their respective teams before then. The wide receiver market could look significantly different by the time the Eagles have to decide whether to franchise DeSean.