The Eagles Should Not Trade DeSean Jackson

DeSean

DeSean Jackson is an enigma who can be troublesome. We all know that and we’ve known that since we drafted him out of Cal. Daniel Jeremiah, back before he worked for NFL Network and the Eagles, recalled DeSean Jackson’s pro-day as one of the best he’d ever seen. DeSean Jackson had ran a 4.35 at the combine, a time that doesn’t quite do his play speed justice. John Middlekauff, former Eagles scout, said DeSean’s combination of hands, route running and speed makes him an elite threat. He was southern California’s most outstanding high school football player, he won the Army All American game MVP, he won the Randy Moss award for best punt returner in college and he was twice selected as an all-Pac-10 performer. Since entering the NFL, DeSean has been named an all-pro in 2010 and has made the Pro Bowl three times. In fact, DeSean was the first player in NFL history to be named a Pro-Bowler at two spots, wide receiver and punt returner, in 2010. And since DeSean entered the NFL no player has had as many plays that went for forty or more yards. DeSean Jackson, despite all his issues, is incredibly talented. We know this.

 

We also know DeSean Jackson can be more than a little bit of a knucklehead. He was suspended from Cal at one point. I’ve heard from various people at Cal that he and Marshawn Lynch knew how to have a good time. There was a period of time where DeSean Jackson introduced himself and named his high school because he felt UC-Berkley had thrown him under the bus in the pre-draft process. When Andy Reid drafted DeSean he told DeSean not to bring his dad around. DeSean has been suspended for missing meetings. We’ve seen DeSean hold out for a new contract. We’ve seen DeSean mope around on the field and dog it. Heck, DeSean owns a rap label and has affiliated himself with a lifestyle and people that pro football organizations might not want to be associated with. We saw DeSean Jackson lash out at Bob Bicknell, his WR coach on the sidelines in a game against Minnesota. And all indications are that DeSean has been an all-around pain in the neck for coaches and teammates, as outlined by Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski [link]:

And then there’s the Jason Avant factor. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Avant acted as a “go-between” Eagles wide receiver coach Bob Bicknell and Jackson, who often got into it, both publicly and privately. It is generally accepted that Avant will be released soon. By cutting the “go-between,” the Eagles’ staff would be forced to deal with Jackson directly more often than they would with Avant still in the locker room.

If things have really gotten out of hand in the locker room and DeSean Jackson is as bothersome as some reports indicate, trade him. But we’re not privy to that stuff and from an on-the-field stand point, it makes no sense to trade DeSean. But, as Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation has outlined, the smoke just will not clear. The buzz really culminated today when a variety of NFL outlets indicated that Eagles are actively listening to offers for DeSean Jackson. What do the Eagles want in return for DeSean Jackson? CSN Philadelphia (Rueben Frank, Geoff Mosher, Derrick Gunn) indicated the Eagles, “…are seeking at least a third-round pick and potentially more for Jackson”. The Eagles’ starting point in negotiations for a 27 year old pro-bowl wide receiver coming off the best season of his career is a third round pick and Jimmy Kempski, who was the first write about DeSean’s potential departure had this to say:

It would appear the DeSean Jackson is worth more to the Eagles than he is to other teams. This is a very underwhelming presumed return. Reality is, you’re extremely unlikely to get a player of equal or greater talent at any point in the draft, especially the third round. The odds do not favor the Eagles in this situation. From 1999 to 2012 there have been 442 total players selected in round three, 55 have started three seasons or more and only 29 have started five seasons or more (a mark DeSean has already hit).

If the Eagles trade DeSean Jackson the wide receiver depth chart would look like this:
Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 7.34.06 PM

Looks pretty thin, no? If the Eagles trade DeSean Jackson the offense suddenly becomes a lot less threatening. You’d be losing the most explosive deep threat since Randy Moss in an offense that puts a premium on speed. Last season, Nick Foles had the highest percentage of deep attempts in the entire league. Trading DeSean Jackson does not help Nick Foles.

One benefit of having DeSean Jackson is that it keeps the safeties honest. Generally, they can’t creep up and stack the box against LeSean McCoy. And if they do, DeSean eats up one on one coverage against a vast majority of NFL corners. The added attention to DeSean also leaves the wide receiver across from him facing more one on one coverage than they’d likely face if DeSean wasn’t there. And there is a lot of space underneath that DeSean creates by forcing defense to respect his vertical ability.

If DeSean leaves, you’re left with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin as the top receivers. Jeremy Maclin was a better receiver than DeSean Jackson in Andy Reid’s offense but we’ve yet to see Maclin in Chip Kelly’s offense thanks to an ACL tear. And while he was a better all-around receiver, he doesn’t have the same big play ability DeSean has.

And as for Riley Cooper…

Let’s just say Riley Cooper hasn’t proved anything more than Reggie Brown proved back in 2006.

There are things you can measure with statistics and things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, DeSean does these things and you’re not likely to replace him with any rookie receiver or a veteran receiver from a picked over market.

You’d have to imagine if the Eagles do end up parting ways with DeSean Jackson that they’d draft a rookie to team with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. This is not a sound strategy if the Eagles intend to compete in 2014.

DeSean Jackson in 2013:
82 receptions (19th)
1332 receiving yards (9th)
9 receiving touchdowns (9th)
25 catches of 20 or more yards (2nd)
68.9% of targets caught (10th)
489 yards after the catch (9th among WRs)
124.4 QB Rating when targeted (1st)
16 catches and 8 touchdowns on plays of twenty or more yards (both 1st)
2.45 yards per route run (4th)

You’re not replacing that level of production with any available receivers, rookie or veteran, in 2013.

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