If DeSean Jackson had been a free agent on March 11th, all 32 teams would have at least done their due diligence on the explosive wide receiver. But as March turns to April, most teams have already filled their holes and/or exhausted their funds, and are now exerting all of their energy towards May’s draft.
Obviously, teams make exceptions when it comes to premium talent. The Saints were not in prime financial position to sign Jairus Byrd earlier this offseason, but they found a way to get the deal done (likely mortgaging their future in the process).
At the same time, “premium talented” guys who are fairly paid aren’t released in their prime for no good reason. Jackson is explosive both on and off the field, meaning any team who gives him a long-term deal will have to think long and hard before doing so. It also means that teams with tight cap situations won’t be players in the D-Jax sweepstakes.
Jackson doesn’t turn 28 until December. While unlikely, it’s conceivable that he could sign a one or two-year deal and hit free agency again while still in his prime. However, it’s more likely that he signs a four or five-year deal structured in a way that the first two years are guaranteed.
I could see something such as a four-year contract worth $41 million, including a $6 million signing bonus and $15 million guaranteed. I have drawn up this estimate below, with his $7 signing bonus, $5 million 2014 base salary, and $3 million of his $8 million 2015 base salary accounting for the guaranteed portion of this deal. A deal structured like this—with the team eating $8.25 million in 2015 dead money and therefore saving only $1.5 million against the 2015 cap—means Johnson would almost certainly earn $20 million over the first two years.
Projected Contract for DeSean Jackson
|Year||Base Salary||Prorated Bonus||Cap Number||Dead Money||Cap Savings|
So who are the potential suitors under my projected scenario? Let’s take a look:
Note: Effective Cap Space is simply (Remaining 2014 Cap Space)-(Projected Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies). It depicts how much cap space each team is theoretically working with at this point in time.
Ranked in descending order of most likely to least likely to sign Jackson.
Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $6,479,886
Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$1,077,167
Effective 2014 Cap Space=$5,402,719
The front-runners simply because Jackson just left a visit to Washington and are reportedly in negotiations. The Redskins have already spent a bunch of money this offseason, which includes the signing of WR Andre Roberts to a 4-year/$16 million deal ($5,250,000 guaranteed). With $5.4 million in effective cap space they could afford D-Jax at around the price I proposed. However, with Pierre Garcon, Roberts and Jordan Reed comprising a very legitimate playmaking threesome, I don’t necessarily think it’d be the best usage of Dan Snyder’s money when looking at the big picture.
Remaining 2014 Cap Space=$15,552,626
Cap Space Required to Sign Rookie Class= $4,241,589
Effective 2014 Cap Space = $11,311,037
In my opinion, Oakland makes the most sense of any team. They are in great cap position for both the present and the future, have football’s least talented roster, and a GM (who assembled this horrid roster) that needs to win games next season in order to save his job. Jackson is also from the SoCal area.
Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $30,781,931
Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$5,946,259
Effective 2014 Cap Space=$24,835,672
The Browns are also reportedly interested, which certainly makes sense. They have a glaring hole at their second wide receiver spot, as well as the money to lure Jackson in. The questions become whether Jackson would want to play in Cleveland (and if they pay up, I don’t foresee this being an issue), as well as whether new GM Ray Farmer is willing to take this risk on the volatile star.
Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $16,682,418
Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$1,984,918
Effective 2014 Cap Space=$14,697,500
Scheme-wise, this wouldn’t be a great fit. Jackson is a vertical threat in the passing game, very similar (albeit more talented) to current Dolphins top receiver Mike Wallace. However, Miami does have the cap space to lure Jackson in, as well as an owner who has shown he isn’t afraid to make a splash.
New York Jets
Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $28,689,282
Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$2,313,384
Effective 2014 Cap Space=$26,375,898
On paper, this certainly makes sense. Similar to the situation in Cleveland, the Jets are loaded with cap space and are in need of another playmaker. But John Idzik’s conservative approach to free agency thus far makes this scenario unlikely.
San Francisco 49ers
Remaining 2014 Cap Space=$4,589,810
Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$2,129,953
Effective 2014 Cap Space =$2,459,857
I included the 49ers simply because they have reportedly shown interest in Jackson. However with so little spending money and the need to lock up some core players (i.e. Colin Kaepernick) in the near future, I would be absolutely shocked if D-Jax ended up in San Francisco.