DeSean Jackson, Eagles Digging In by Matt Lombardo

DeSean Jackson is in the final year of his rookie contract that has paid him an average of $769,960 over four years and is making the league minimum $600,000 this season. After sleeping through a meeting on Sunday and being benched against Arizona as a result, it appears his contract battle with the Eagles is reaching a boiling point. 

DeSean Jackson’s days in Philadelphia are numbered.

After sleeping through a team meeting on Saturday and missing a practice leading up to last week’s Monday night game between the Eagles and Bears, it’s becoming more apparent that the fourth year receiver is burning his midnight green bridge in a contract year. Andy Reid deactivated Jackson on Sunday as a consequence, but as his quest for a new contract plays out, Jackson seems more and more disinterested as the season has moved along.

Make no mistake about it, players are not benched and told not to report to the game simply for sleeping through one special teams meeting. There are obviously issues that run deeper than these incidents brewing like a maelstrom below when it comes to Jackson and his contract situation.

There appears to be a growing disconnect between Jackson and the Eagles front office.

“The Eagles have a lot of selfish players in the locker room,” Cris Carter told Mike and Mike on 97.5 The Fanatic on Monday. “That’s evident by DeSean Jackson’s actions by missing a team meeting on Saturday. If this is what he’s trying to do regarding his contract situation than he’s not being professional.”

Jackson along with agent Drew Rosenhaus began the season searching for a new contract, that pays him more than the $600,000 he is making this season, by sitting out ten days of training camp before ultimately reporting. However, Jackson’s petulance has grown as the season has gone along. From not speaking to the media during the week, to questions being raised about his effort and work ethic, Jackson is doing himself no favors in his quest for a new deal from the Eagles.

The dynamic that has surrounded this season and Jackson through the first nine games have been marinading for some time. Since rookie contracts in the NFL are weighted by the position a player is chosen in the draft, Jackson’s unhappiness was inevitable after being chosen in the second round. Taking Jeremy Maclin with a first round selection the following year, undoubtedly added to Jackson’s ire. The final straw for DeSean seems to be the Eagles signing Steve Smith to a contract that pays him $2.2 million this season.

Prior to the season, Jackson’s demands were made clear, he believed his worth to be among the top ten receivers in the NFL. That simply isn’t the case. In his career Jackson averages 57 catches for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns per season. Meanwhile in his career Larry Fitzgerald widely regarded as the game’s top receiver hauls in an average of 82 catches for 1,124 yards and nearly nine touchdowns per season. Andre Johnson’s numbers also eclipse Jackson’s: 77 catches, 1,057 yards and six touchdowns.

Sure, Jackson contributes in the return game, but the simple business fact in the NFL is that return numbers don’t translate into marquee contract extensions. Devin Hester is and always has been a fair barometer for what Jackson should expect in his next deal. The Bears inked Hester a four-year extension that pays him $40 million including a $12 million signing bonus.

Now, it appears even a similar deal to Hester’s is out of reach for Jackson.

If the Eagles and DeSean Jackson cannot work out a long term extension, the team has several options; place the franchise tag on Jackson and pay him the average of the top five receivers in the NFL which will be approximately $17 million for one season, place the tag on him and if unable to work out a trade, then pull the tag around training camp once the market settles and release him or simply choose to wash their hands of him. Given his rapid decline and insubordinate attitude this season, it’s unlikely that this front office will pay him double-digit millions of dollars for one season, that much is becoming clearer by the day.

In the past, players that fall out of favor with the Eagles in the final year of their contract inexplicably take on lesser roles. LeSean McCoy began to take a share of Brian Westbrook’s carries in his contract year. Jeremiah Trotter became a rotation player, and Michael Lewis’ role in Jim Johnson’s defense was diminished before he unceremoniously landed in San Francisco.

Perhaps most damaging to Jackson’s cause is that between his decreased production on the field and his actions off of it, he is systematically destroying what good will remained between him, the front office and Head Coach Andy Reid.

“Honestly, I have never, I’ve never seen Coach do anything like that,” Jackson told Michael Irvin on NFL Network in an interview taped for Thursday Night’s pre-game show. “Like, I’ve never seen him bench anybody for, like missing a meeting.”

As a whole the Eagles are in disarray. They’ve lost five games this year that they were leading in the fourth quarter. There are questions abound about a lack of team chemistry, cohesion and leadership. Jackson’s contract situation is not only becoming a distraction, but when his actions lead to a suspension, they are effecting the team at large.

DeSean Jackson’s days in Philadelphia are numbered, that appears to be obvious. Unless he returns to the straight and narrow you have to wonder how many teams will offer the kind of money he is demanding to a diminutive, prima dona wideout who so dramatically lets his financial situation adversely effect his play on the field.

Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email at MDLombardo@yahoo.com

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