When DeSean Jackson runs out of the tunnel Sunday taking on his former team, you can’t help but wonder if Jackson will think about what could have been.
Just a year ago Jackson was a free agent after spending three seasons in Washington. Even before the 2016 season ended, speculation arose that the former Eagle might be coming back to the city where he spent six seasons becoming one of the most dangerous deep threats in NFL history.
During the Eagles-Redskins week 16 match-up, an employee at Lincoln Financial Field asked Jackson “You coming home?” Jackson’s reply got Eagles fans everywhere excited about a possible reunion.
The moment I thought DeSean was coming back pic.twitter.com/dyhb9VpNbs
— Louie DiBiase (@DiBiaseLOE) September 15, 2018
Not only did Jackson comment on a potential comeback with the security guards, but he also told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he wanted to play for a great quarterback (praising Carson Wentz) and that coming back to the Eagles would be a “great story or ending I guess you could say.”
The pairing made perfect sense. In the three years that Jackson wasn’t with the Eagles, the team was unable to replace him at wide receiver, rolling through the likes of Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Jordan Matthews, and Miles Austin.
They also couldn’t find anybody to cover Jackson who suddenly was playing the Eagles twice a year.
He went from being the most dangerous deep threat in Eagles history, to the most dangerous threat to go deep against the Eagles.
Jackson gave the Eagles fits as he exposed the mediocre groups of Carry Williams and Bradley Fletcher, Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll, followed by Carroll and Leodis McKelvin.
He was the kryptonite of the Eagles. They could not stop the once Giant, Cowboy, and Redskin killer that was now the biggest Eagle killer in the NFL.
Since 1983, DeSean Jackson has the most 50-yard catches for the Eagles and the most 50-yard catches against the Eagles.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) September 12, 2018
The Eagles finally had the opportunity to do right by Jackson who was cut unexpectedly by Chip Kelly after (or before) a story came out that Jackson had gang ties back in California. It was speculated that the Eagles leaked the story as a way to justify cutting a receiver who had a career year in 2013. Jackson who has never got in trouble off the field spoke on the matter often, saying he grew up with friends that did get involved with gangs but he had never been a part of it.
Now that Chip Kelly was out of the picture and the Eagles desperately needed weapons to surround Carson Wentz with, it seemed like DeSean Jackson could be coming home.
Jackson seemed to like the idea, the Eagles reportedly had interest, and even former teammates like Brandon Graham and LeSean McCoy were talking about the potential reunion.
“It’s an exciting feeling to get an Eagle back. I’m excited because he should have never left. Everybody knows that DeSean, yes, things were happening while he was here, but he’s a good guy. I used to be with him all the time.”
“I’m just happy because I kinda knew already. I’ve talked to him. I talked to him when Doug (Pederson) got hired. We have fun during the season. He’s like, ‘B.G. you know I’ll be back, man.’ But now that it’s official, as far as the season about to be over, I think you’ll be hearing a lot of noise about DeSean … I’m saying official as far as the end of season, now we’re gonna really see.”
Instagram live w/ Shady McCoy tonight was interesting. Called Kiko a bumb and said Desean told him he was going back. Whatever that means.
— Dan Hellie (@DanHellie) December 25, 2016
The comeback of a fan favorite never came to fruition. Jackson, in a free agent market where a lot of teams were willing to pay big money for weapons like him, cashed in with Tampa Bay.
The Eagles took the route of bringing in Alshon Jeffery on a one-year prove it deal, while bringing in Torrey Smith to be their new DeSean Jackson.
Smith struggled to make the deep plays down the field but signing Jeffery over Jackson seemed to pay off as the Eagles finally had a complete WR1 who scored 12 touchdowns on the year including three in the playoffs. Jeffery was one of the biggest reasons the offense opened up and the team never looked back winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Jackson has to think that potentially could have been him had he and the Eagles worked something out in free agency.
With DeSean instead of Jeffery, Wentz would still have plenty of weapons on offense to take the MVP-caliber step he took in year two.
He commented on the Eagles winning the Super Bowl in an appearance on “Undisputed”, and how he and players like McCoy or Jeremy Maclin could have been with that Super Bowl team had Chip Kelly kept them around.
But DeSean’s situation is different from that of McCoy and Maclin. The Eagles were interested in bringing Jackson back. Had he asked for less money, perhaps the Eagles bring him home and he is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the Eagles.
What a story it could have been.
Instead, Jackson will be looking to once again be a problem for the Eagles secondary this Sunday. This time with a journeyman quarterback and a team that despite being 1-0, has a lot of question marks for this season and the future.
Gotta wonder if Jackson would do it differently if he could go back to 2017 free agency.
Bell over Brown is an obvious choice for the Eagles
It’s almost fishing season in the NFL as all 32 teams look to catch some nice pieces for their roster through free agency, the draft, and the trade market. While the biggest fish don’t always tend to swim in those waters, every year a few big names suddenly become available for a team looking to spend.
This year, it just so happens two of the best at their position are up for grabs, and they both are coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Star offensive weapons in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown will both be in different jerseys next year for the first time in their careers. Bell is set to become a free agent, while Pittsburgh and Brown agreed a trade is in the best interest for both sides.
On paper, the Eagles could make sense for both. Adding weapons around Carson Wentz will always be a priority. However if Howie Roseman and the front office decide they want to go after one of these expensive play-makers, Bell makes much more sense for a number of reasons.
Bell doesn’t come with the baggage Brown does
Don’t let this fool you. Talent beats culture. It is why the Steelers were consistently atop the AFC despite a chaotic locker room. Coaches like Chip Kelly flamed out because they prioritized scheme and a robotic culture.
Despite that, Brown’s antics off the field are a real concern. He quit on his team with the season on the line. Pittsburgh needed a win and a Baltimore loss to make the postseason in Week 17 but Brown was MIA.
The temper tantrums on the sidelines, ghosting your team with the season on the line, that kind of behavior despite six straight seasons of 100+ receptions is eye opening.
Bell doesn’t have that stench to him. While Steelers fans will tell you Bell was selfish and uncommitted to football, it is unfair to say he has character concerns because he didn’t want to risk his long term health in a contract year. He wanted to be paid like the star he is and Pittsburgh wanted to pay the position not the player. Can’t blame either side.
Brown would require trade assets AND a big contract
Some people love to scoff at the idea of paying any significant resource for a star RB like Bell. While it wouldn’t be smart to kill the salary cap for the do-it-all weapon, it is far more reasonable to pay Bell rather than pay Brown big money and give up the trade assets it would take to get him from Pittsburgh.
What sounds better to you? $14+ million a year for Bell or $14+ million a year for Brown and perhaps a 2nd round pick + Nelson Agholor?
Bell, Agholor, and the rookie taken with that 2nd round pick sounds a lot better than just Brown.
The report Bell wants $50 million in the first two years is scary. He turned down a 5 year $70 million deal with the Steelers but perhaps when the market develops Bell will have to temper his expectations.
Bell’s age and position is more attractive to the Eagles
Two other major elements in deciding between Bell and Brown would be age and position.
By the start of next season, Brown will be 31. Bell will be be 27. Bell has four years on Brown.
If Bell could maintain his productivity into his early 30’s, the Eagles could be set at RB for 5-6 years.
Being a running back also makes him a more attractive option. Doug Pederson’s offense is in desperate need of a talented RB.
Having a weapon like Bell in the backfield that can be your top runner, a top receiver, and efficient pass blocker puts this Eagles offense on a level only the Saints and Rams can match in the NFC.
It also makes the offense less predictable. Using a committee with featured grinders like Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajay, and Josh Adams to go along with the clear pass catchers in Darren Sproles and Corey Clement can be a good way to keep your backs fresh, but it is clear what the offense plans to do on 3rd and 4 when Sproles is out there.
It is easier to predict what Pederson will do on 3rd and 2 when Blount was out there. Someone like Bell keeps the defense guessing in any situation.
While the Eagles could use more speed on offense, Brown would be a luxury. A luxury that could cost high draft picks, players, a high cap hit, and potential baggage.
Is that worth it for a team that already has at least four quality receiving options? Can’t imagine Brown would be happy not seeing 13+ targets a game.
History tells us the Eagles won’t go after either Bell or Brown. However with an aggressive front office that has shown a commitment in surrounding their franchise QB with weapons, it wouldn’t be suprising to see one of these two in midnight green. Especially with Roseman’s ability to perform magic on the salary cap.
If they decide to pursue one, it should be Le’Veon Bell.
Offseason Options: Wide Receiver
The Eagles have plenty of weapons for Carson Wentz to throw to in 2019. The WR position, however, could use more speed to compliment the bigger weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert.
If Golden Tate, Mike Wallace, and/or Jordan Matthews leave the Eagles this offseason, what options does Howie Roseman have in free agency and the draft when it comes to pass catchers?
Louie and Gino give some big name options in the draft and free agency, as well as some receivers that could fly under the radar in both offseason periods.
Offseason Options: Running Back
It is time for the Eagles to add some serious talent in the backfield. What are their options if they want to add a big name free agent? What about a high draft pick?
If Howie Roseman sticks to his strategy of lower-priced free agents or draft picks, who could be a diamond in the rough?
Our “Offseason options’ series begins with RB on the Locked on Eagles podcast!
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