DeSean Jackson has said he believes he is a franchise wide receiver.
His boast received backing Thursday when the Eagles placed their franchise tag on the breathtaking - and sometimes headaching-inducing - 25-year-old.
Jackson released a statement suggesting that he would sign the Eagles' one-year tender as soon as possible. And why wouldn't he? He will make $9.4 million under the tag - more than three times what he made during his first four seasons in the NFL.
"I am honored that the Eagles organization perceives me as a franchise player," Jackson said in the statement. "I look forward to getting a long-term deal done soon and being an Eagle for many years to come."
The Eagles had until 4 p.m. Monday to tag Jackson, but decided to end the suspense. They became the first team to franchise a potential free agent this offseason.
"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul, and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said 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 Eagles and Jackson's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had spent parts of the last week negotiating an extension, but the sides remained far apart. It is unclear how each side estimates the Pro Bowl receiver's worth, but they have 41/2 months to work out a long-term contract once Jackson signs the tender.
The deadline for an extension is July 15. Before the Eagles tagged Jackson, Rosenhaus was asked about the franchise designation when he spoke to Sirius NFL Radio.
"If a player is franchised, it certainly doesn't mean that you have to play for that franchise tag for that year," Rosenhaus said. "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 multiyear deal."
The Eagles also have the option to trade Jackson after tagging him, although that is unlikely. Interested teams must be prepared to meet the Eagles' asking price - which would be significant - and Jackson's contract demands.
The market for free-agent receivers - still not set because several marquee players also are expected to be franchised - could influence whether the Eagles want to deal Jackson or whether receiver-needy teams would be interested in pursuing the receiver.
ESPN reported last week that the Eagles were listening to offers, but a team source said that was not the case. The Eagles have never traded a franchised player, although they have retracted the tag - from Jeremiah Trotter in 2002 and Corey Simon in 2005 - when the players did not sign the tender.
Jackson said after the season that he was fine with the tag, but he declined to answer the same question when he was approached at the Super Bowl last month. If he doesn't sign the tender before Week 10 of the coming season, he won't make anything and will have to sit out the season.
At this point, however, all signs point to Jackson's returning for his fifth season. The Eagles need Jackson's game-breaking speed to stretch defenses - not to mention his ability to score from anywhere on the field - and Jackson needs to play in coach Andy Reid's fastbreak offense.
Despite the fit, Jackson's production slipped last year. He failed to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since his rookie season and didn't deliver many of his trademark big plays.
Jackson admitted at one point during the season that he let his contract situation - he made $600,000 in base salary - become a distraction. He held out from the start of training camp as a sort-of protest. Not long after he arrived, the Eagles signed free-agent receiver Steve Smith - who proved to be a bust - to a $2.2 million contract.
If Jackson saw that signing as a slight, he never said so. But as the Eagles' fortunes declined, the mercurial receiver appeared to become disinterested. He missed a team meeting before the Arizona game, and Reid benched him. Two weeks later, he short-armed a few passes against New England and Reid sat him in the fourth quarter.
For the final five games, though, Jackson was "all-in," Reid said, and both the coach and owner Jeffrey Lurie said after the season that they wanted their 2008 second-round draft pick to return.
During his first four seasons with the Eagles, Jackson became one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. He earned Pro Bowl invitations in 2009 and 2010, the first as both a receiver and a punt returner, the first time that had ever happened.
His size - he is generously listed at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds - and the two concussions he suffered, one in 2009 and another in 2010, could be used against him in contract negotiations. But Jackson has missed only two games because of injury.
Franchise Tag Can Be a Gamble
The Eagles have used the franchise tag four other times, and the results have not been great. Here is what happened:
Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter: Their first experience wasn't a good one. Trotter refused to sign, and the team rescinded the tag. Trotter signed with the rival Redskins before returning to Philadelphia two years later and giving the Eagles three more productive seasons. He left again in 2007, returning for a 2009 cameo.
Defensive tackle Corey Simon: He also refused to sign, and the Eagles again pulled off the tag. Simon played one season in Indianapolis but suffered a knee injury that year and never started again. He did not record another sack after leaving Philadelphia.
Tight end L.J. Smith: He played with the tag, catching 37 passes - three for touchdowns. He was allowed to leave for Baltimore the next season and was out of the league one season later.
Quarterback Michael Vick: With the NFL lockout looming and labor rules preventing the team from signing Vick long-term, the Eagles franchised the quarterback. Once the labor fight ended, Vick had a deal promoted as a six-year, $100 million contract. But he took a step back on the field in 2011, and the team's financial commitment ends after the 2012 season. - Jonathan Tamari
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