December 27, 2018
Any time there are rumblings about wide receiver DeSean Jackson's offseason availability, you can figure there will be speculation about a reunion with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver has battled injuries for much of the second half of the season, cooling off considerably after a hot start with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
But for a limited year in an unstable offense, Jackson's numbers (41 receptions, 774 yards, 4 TDs and a league-best 18.9 yards-per-catch) are commendable. They're not far off from what the Eagles have gotten out of top receiver Alshon Jeffery this year (60 receptions, 784 yards, 5 TDs and 13.1 yards-per-catch).
ESPN's Josina Anderson reported Thursday that Jackson, 32, would like to move on from the Buccaneers. Sources told Anderson Jackson had an "exchange" with head coach Dirk Koetter over his recent thumb injury, among other obvious considerations about his role and the team's disappointing trajectory.
‘Cup of Jo’ on #NFL Live: I’m told that #Bucs WR Desean Jackson has expressed a preference to move on from Tampa Bay after this season & that change may be good to contribute in a new environment. Jackson leads the NFL in YPR at 18.9, but since Wk.4 he’s averaging 10 fewer ypr. pic.twitter.com/5tSPgPwOGZ— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 27, 2018
Jackson is still under contract for a third year with the Bucs, however, none of the remaining $10 million on his deal is guaranteed. With a new coach likely taking over in Tampa and the emergence of Chris Godwin as a number two to Mike Evans, it's questionable whether Tampa would even bring him back at that price. Disciplinary issues going back to last season also curiously surfaced this month, further clouding Jackson's future with the Bucs.
Anderson listed the Eagles among the teams the veteran might be interested in joining.
"I just want to say, lastly, as we look ahead to free agency, I know we’re not there yet, but we’re getting ahead...keep an eye on Washington, keep an eye on Philly, and possibly the Rams in terms of destinations that DeSean could end up at," Anderson said.
Philadelphia's glaring need for a speed wide receiver ultimately went unaddressed after the Eagles reportedly inquired about one of Jackson or Jets wideout Robbie Anderson at the trade deadline. For the third round pick they gave the Lions to rent Golden Tate, his addition just hasn't provided the offense much of a boost.
Mike Wallace, 32, has missed all but one game this year and will become a free agent. Mack Hollins missed the entire season. For whatever reason, Shelton Gibson could never get on the field. Nelson Agholor's breakout game took 16 weeks to arrive — and Nick Foles at quarterback. Jordan Matthews has been solid in his return, but his role has diminished rather than grown since he was picked up to fill an immediate need.
Beyond Jeffery, there's reason to think this could be a different group next season.
Jackson presumably wants to play for a contender and again be paid like the lethal specialist he's proven himself to be over a decade in the NFL.
The Eagles will have good reason to be concerned about his durability, but that could actually bring his price as a free agent more in line with what the team can afford to spend in 2019 — not much, as the cap currently stands. Would Jackson be willing to embrace a situational role as a luxury-type player the Eagles don't need to lean on every week? Would both sides have the will to meet each other somewhere in the middle?
For now, this can only be treated as another report. Still, after two straight years of signing veteran speed receivers to voidable or short-term deals (Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace), the Eagles know it hasn't been easy trying to find another player who can do half of what Jackson could and still can.