Moves that could affect Eagles

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson could be headed for free agency. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP file photo)

Free agency is just about five weeks away.

But the pool of players who will be available on March 13 will look different than it does now. Teams will spend the next part of the offseason deciding what to do with their own free agents, using the franchise tag and working on long-term contracts.

Which brings us to a few moves around the league that could affect the Eagles.

I feel like I write about DeSean Jackson every day, but part of the intrigue associated with his situation is figuring out where Jackson fits in the wide receiver market.

Another big-play threat who's not under contract for 2012 is Vincent Jackson. Jason La Canfora of NFL Network said recently that he sees "no way" Vincent Jackson is back with the Chargers. I've compared the two players before, but here's a quick look at how they've compared the past three seasons (Drop Rate is a Pro Football Focus metric that tracks how many catchable balls are dropped):

  Rec./g. Yds./g. YPC TDs Drop Rate
DeSean Jackson 3.8 72.4 19.0 19 13.1%
Vincent Jackson 3.9 70.0 17.8 21 6.9%

On the surface, the numbers are quite similar. Both are home run threats; neither is a high-volume guy. Vincent Jackson's never had more than 68 catches in a season; DeSean's never had more than 62.

The glaring difference from the chart is that Vincent Jackson drops far fewer balls than DeSean. Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230) also dwarfs DeSean in size and has 11 red-zone touchdowns in the last three seasons (36 games). DeSean has five red-zone touchdowns in his career (60 games).

However, DeSean has scored seven non-receiving touchdowns in his career (rushing and as a returner); Vincent Jackson has zero. DeSean is also four years younger.

Keep an eye on what Vincent Jackson is looking for - either from the Chargers or another team. It will help put DeSean's asking price in perspective.

And of course, if the Eagles choose to part ways with DeSean and find his replacement via free agency, Vincent Jackson could be among the three or four best receivers on the market.


Meanwhile, the Eagles will have to decide on the best option for linebacker help - the draft, free agency or even a trade. has a master list of linebackers who are not currently under contract for 2012. A couple names people have asked about are Atlanta's Curtis Lofton and Detroit's Stephen Tulloch.

Lofton is only 25 years old and finished fifth in the league last season with 147 tackles, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution isn't so sure Lofton is going to be back with the Falcons and indicates that he could be seeking a big payday on the open market. He also points out that Atlanta could use the franchise tag on Brent Grimes, which would mean they couldn't use it on Lofton.

As for Tulloch, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News says he "cannot be replaced" in the Lions' defense. Tulloch played behind the wide-nine in Tennessee and again last year. Per Anwar S. Richardson of, the team is interested in bringing him back.

One thing to keep in mind with the Eagles' linebacker situation is that they need a three-down player who can cover, in addition to playing the run. It would seem unlikely that they'd pay a significant amount of money to a player who is going to come off the field in nickel situations. It just doesn't make sense with the direction the league is going and the matchup problems caused by tight ends.

By the time last season ended, the Eagles were shuffling five different linebackers in and out - Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle, Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews and Keenan Clayton. That was primarily out of necessity, though. Not preference.

I need to take a closer look at the free-agent linebackers, but Pro Football Focus' snap counts show Lofton and Tulloch rarely came off the field last season. Tulloch played 98.4 percent of the Lions' defensive snaps, and Lofton played 99.1 percent of the Falcons' defensive snaps.

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