The Eagles announced Thursday that they're using the franchise tag on wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that," said GM 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."
The tag made sense from the Eagles' standpoint because now Jackson can't leave as an unrestricted free agent. In other words, if Jackson is playing for another team next season, at least the Eagles will have received something in return.
There are now three primary scenarios that could play out in the coming months. Here they are, along with my thoughts on each:
1. Jackson plays 2012 under the franchise tag
Under this scenario, Jackson would agree to sign a one-year deal worth a reported $9.4M. This scenario also assumes that Jackson and the Eagles are unable to reach a long-term deal.
On one hand, that's a nice one-year salary, especially considering Jackson made $600,000 in 2011.
On the other hand, it does not provide security beyond next season, which is important for a player who has suffered two concussions in the past three seasons and has not even turned 26 years old yet.
This may be the most likely scenario, but it's far from ideal. Jackson admitted several times last year that the contract issues weighed on his mind and affected his play. He was told not to show up for the Cardinals game after missing a team meeting. And he was benched in the second half against the Patriots.
If the Eagles are looking to make a run next season, can they afford to take a chance on Jackson again being a distraction? It's a risky move.
2. The Eagles trade Jackson
A couple things need to happen for a trade to get done.
Number one, the Eagles need to find a suitor willing to meet their asking price in terms of compensation.
And number two, the suitor needs to be able to work out a long-term deal with Jackson and Drew Rosenhaus.
As I've been writing for months, the likelihood of a trade depends on the market. Earlier this offseason, I took a detailed look at Jackson's place.
There are several wide receivers who will be free agents if they don't receiver the franchise tag: Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker for starters. Bowe and Welker are likely to be tagged, according to reports.
The Steelers' Mike Wallace is expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent. Teams can sign him to an offer sheet, but Pittsburgh has the option to match any offer and keep him. Any suitor has to also be willing to give up a first-round pick.
The franchise tag deadline is Monday, and the start of free agency is March 13. We'll have a better idea then of what the market looks like.
Of course, if the Eagles end up trading Jackson, they need to find some way to replace him before next season.
3. Jackson and the Eagles agree to a long-term deal
Roseman's stance publicly is that the Eagles want Jackson here for the long haul. We'll find out by the team's actions whether that's really the case. Jackson said during the season that he thinks he's in the same class as Larry Fitzgerald. But he and Rosenhaus are likely the only ones who share that opinion.
The market is again important here. The franchise tag buys some time to get a deal done. The Eagles and Jackson can sit back and observe what kind of deals some of the other receivers get and then try to come to an agreement. Per Jonathan Tamari, the Eagles and Jackson have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal. After that, he can only play this year under the tag.
As I've maintained all along, this is the best-case scenario. Ideally, Jackson gets his money, works on his game and is one of the league's premier deep threats for the next five years. The Eagles, meanwhile, return a strong core of skill-position players in 2012.
The only other way this thing can play out is Jackson refuses to sign the tender, sits out the year and doesn't get paid at all.
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