After attempting to trade DeSean Jackson the Philadelphia Eagles have finally opted to release the star wide receiver from his contract.
Jackson had signed a $48.5 million contract in March of 2012, that was in essence a two year $18 million deal with a significant amount of backend money designed to pacify his demands for a new contract. After struggling in 2012, Jackson would bounce back to have a terrific season in 2013 where he put up over 1,300 yards. Following the season, Jackson began making some noise about a new contract in part probably because he felt underpaid compared to the deals that came after in 2013 such as Mike Wallace ($12 million a season), Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million a season), and Percy Harvin ($12.849 million a season), players whom he compared favorably to from a statistical standpoint. Part of this may have also been agent driven as Jackson switched agents last year, which usually is a precursor to looking for a new contract such that both player and agent can financially benefit.
Jackson was set to earn $10.75 million and would carry a $12.75 million cap charge in 2014. He still has $6 million in prorated money that has to be accounted for on the salary cap. In addition Jackson had a $250,000 guarantee on his 2014 salary if he did not complete the workout program in 2012. At this time I don’t believe he earned that bonus so we will count his dead money at $6.25 million until we clarify it. The move should free up around $6 million in net cap space for Philadelphia and help clear up their books in 2015 where the Eagles salary cap allocation had been at the top of the NFL.
Jackson will likely have a difficult time finding a home that will pay him anywhere near what the other receivers mentioned above earn. All three were essentially a bust in 2013 and the WR market pulled back to the point where Jackson will be hard pressed to average the $9.7 million a year he did in Philadelphia. There are a number of warning flags with Jackson ranging from inconsistent play to perceived attitude problems to potential off the field issues. His best season will be flagged with a “system benefit” tag by many teams in the NFL. While it only takes one team to overpay for production options will be more limited now that most teams have spent their big free agent dollars.
The fact that a team would not trade for him at just over $20 million in cash for two years shows that the odds of the double digit annual value are very slim. Eric Decker only received $7.25 million from the Jets coming off back to back strong seasons in Denver and would represent the top free agent in 2014. Other more moderate salary comparison points that teams will likely use would be Victor Cruz ($8.6 million), Pierre Garcon ($8.5 million), and Antonio Brown ($8.392 million). These players all provided more value that most of the big salary players and also don’t fit the pure “number 1″ mold which Jackson also does not fit.