Earlier this week I wondered if DeSean Jackson is worth all the money. Or, more specifically, if the Redskins could justify paying him the roughly $10 million annually he was seeking. To me the answer was a resounding negative for a number of reasons, but that answer is irrelevant now.
While the east coast was tucking in for an early spring slumber last night, Jackson was signing with the Washington Redskins. That’s not remotely surprising, as after spending two days meeting with the team’s various important people and eating several meals, leaving unsigned would have been a wee bit startling.
No, what’s surprising now are the reported terms being finalized this morning, with Jackson set to make $24 million over three years, $16 million of which is guaranteed.
Interest elsewhere was lukewarm at best due to Jackson’s rumored high salary demands after finances were a leading cause of his release from Philadelphia, where he was set to make $10.5 million in 2014. But the compromise for the Redskins — a team with little cap room ($6.9 million) — lied in the guaranteed money and the shorter term. Jackson gets to be a free agent again at the still ripe age of 30 with two years of his new contract fully guaranteed, and with only a minimal raise in that guaranteed money (his last contract guaranteed $15 million) the Redskins kept the base salary and cap hit down.
Everyone wins? Sure, in the short term, which is the designed intent here. Jackson was lured in by the security of a cemented contract and the ability to get paid again while he’s still in his prime. And for a team under a new head coach dealing with a quarterback who regressed in his second year, the potential to have an off-field headache created by Jackson is mitigated by his possibly short stay.
Neat. And on the field, the results will be fast. So very fast.
Jackson arrived at his career high total of 1,332 receiving yards in 2013 through deep balling, because that’s what he does. His 25 receptions of 20 yards or more put him behind only Josh Gordon, and he also finished tied for third in +40 yarders with eight. Since he’s 27 years old losing steps isn’t happening anytime soon, and at 17.2 yards per reception he’s one of only four receivers in league history to average 17.1 or more over the first sixyears of a career.
He joins the also blazing and newly signed Andre Roberts, and Pierre Garcon, the high volume target beast who had a ball thrown in his direction a league high 184 times last year. Often used in space on quick-hitting routes, Garcon had the second most yards after the catch among wide receivers this past season (667).
Al Davis would be a very jealous man right about now upon seeing this bounty of athleticism all in one place, the sort that jives perfectly with Jay Gruden’s pass heavy vertical thinking which just led to a career high 1,426 yards for A.J. Green. It’s a massive shift from 2013, when Garcon was the only true source of speed, and even he was often outpaced by Robert Griffin III’s booming arm. Combined with Aldrick Robinson the two caught only seven of 36 deeps balls, according to Pro Football Focus (commonly defined as balls that travel 20 yards or further in the air), while Jackson alone caught 16 of 33.
So Jackson is the perfect tonic for what ails RG3, and it eliminates any possible excuse. That’s especially true when he also still has the support of Alfred Morris, Roy Helu as a pass catching option out of the backfield, and the quickly emerging Jordan Reed, who’s very much sculpted in the mold of the modern tight end (tight end by name, wide receiver by action).
There’s one small problem though, and I mean that quite literally: size. The Redskins have now sacrificed it in a major way for speed, a justifiable gamble given Morris’ red-zone presence as he pounds away, Griffin’s running ability in the same area, and the length of Reed. Still, not having one receiver who’s at least 6’0″ among your top three is concerning, especially in this era when larger and much more physical corners are currently fashionable around the league after the success of that model in Seattle.
Combine weigh-ins of #Redskins Top 3 WRs: Pierre Garcon 5-foot-11 7/8, 210. DeSean Jax 5-foot-9 3/4, 169. Andre Roberts 5-foot-10 7/8, 195.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) April 2, 2014
Between Griffin, Jackson, and Roberts, the aim is winning with sheer speed. And if pre-injury 2012 Griffin returns, that will probably happen a lot.