The Philadelphia Eagles placed the franchise tag on disgruntled wide receiver DeSean Jackson today according to an announcement on the team’s web site. The Eagles are the first team to apply the franchise tag in 2012.
Jackson is a dangerous receiver and special team threat who stressed over an extension to his rookie contract for two seasons. He received a contract consistent with his second round 2008 Draft selection. Jackson was the seventh wide-out selected (which means six NFL clubs have some ‘splaining to do).
Four-thousand yards and 21 touchdowns later, Jackson is the most explosive member of a dynamic offense. His middle school behavior of acting out when he did not get his way gives pause. If his performance declined in his unhappiness, when the Eagles needed the best from him, how will he perform when he hits his big payday?
The question is not whether Jackson deserves a rich contract — he does. The question is does he have the emotional maturity to handle success?
Players see as far as their own contract. Teams must balance contracts against the salary cap. Contracts are timed for their impact on the cap. It means that players often wait for preceding move before they get their deal. The Eagles, for example, restructured Cullen Jenkins’ five-year contract to reduce the $7.5 million cap hit he would have cost them in 2012. It gives Philly maneuvering room to re-sign Jackson and the free agents they must add beginning March 13.
The franchise tag is a calming influence, especially for Jackson who might have a higher sense of his worth than his team does. From the Eagles web site:
“When Jackson signs, the tender will become a fully guaranteed one-year contract worth $9.4 million. Until Jackson signs, he is free to negotiate with other NFL teams beginning March 13 at 4 PM EST. If Jackson signs an offer sheet with another team, the Eagles have the right to match that offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation for Jackson’s departure.”
Teams have until March 5 to apply the franchise tag to players who are at the end of their contracts. This should be a busy weekend in the NFL.