Harmony at Eagles Training Camp

All rookies and veterans reported to training camp at Lehigh this year. That makes it only the third time in the last decade that the Eagles have had everyone show up.

A brief rundown of your holdouts and no-shows:

2012:
2011: DeSean Jackson
2010: Brandon Graham
2009: Jeremy Maclin
2008: Shawn Andrews
2007:
2006: Broderick Bunkley
2005: Brian Westbrook*
2004:
2003: Jerome McDougle

*Terrell Owens actually reported on time. But it was worse than if he hadn’t.

DeSean Jackson, the Franchise Tag, and Respect

DeSean Jackson

So, what did we miss? Just a few weeks ago Eagles fans were collectively doom and gloom about the DeSean Jackson situation. Many expected the Eagles to let him walk in free agency, others saw a long holdout in store. Instead, yesterday the team used its franchise tag on Jackson and immediate reports were that the wide receiver would sign the one-year tender as soon as possible.

I wrote a few weeks back why I thought Jackson would be wise not to fight the franchise tag, and I still think many of those reasons apply. Coming off a poor season both on and off the field, his leverage wasn’t as great as it once was. The Eagles could have eventually forced him to report unless he wanted to sit out the 2012 season.

However, there’s one factor I missed that both played a large role in Jackson’s decision to sign and gives me further hope that a long term deal can eventually be worked out. The factor deals with exactly why Jackson was angry last year. He wasn’t, I now believe, miffed because he didn’t have long term security. None of his statements suggested that he was hesitant to put his body on the line for the team because he thought that he could get hurt and never get that second payday.

Not to cherry-pick a single quote, but after the final game last season, Jackson told reporters, “I can’t really get frustrated over contract situations or if I’m not paid how I think I should be.”

For Jackson, it has always seemed to be about that perceived slight. He was mad because the Eagles went out and gave money to players like Steve Smith instead of to him. Jackson was one of the best players on the field and simultaneously one of the lowest-paid players off of it.

That’s why Jackson has never had a problem with the franchise tag. His immediate reaction after the season suggested that he would be happy with it, and so did his response to the tag actually being applied yesterday: “I am honored that the Philadelphia Eagles organization perceives me as a franchise player.” Jackson also said he is "Enjoyin My Life!!" and "Humbled moment!!"

Instead of being annoyed that he couldn’t seek a long term deal, DeSean seems happy — both in his offical PR and off-the-cuff tweets. Jackson’s happy because in his eyes he’s finally being recognized and paid like the player he knows he is. It may be only for one season, but that’s enough for now, and it gives me hope that the two sides will have an easier time coming together.

Insult is off the table, so hopefully real negotiations can now take place.

Photo from Getty.

DeSean Jackson’s Contract Negotiation Primer

With DeSean Jackson reporting to camp at Lehigh, worrying can end about the ramifications of what I considered to be one of the least worrisome holdouts in recent memory. Jackson is, by NFL standards, ridiculously underpaid. As a budding star, he deserves to be compensated better than the long snapper.

Gaining whatever leverage he could from holding out affected nothing about the season. We didn’t really want DeSean getting hit and potentially injured in meaningless practices anyway. And there was never any doubt in my mind that he’d eventually report.

The more interesting question now is how long it will take for the Eagles to give him that new contract. The team told the press that they wouldn’t negotiate with a player holding out. Now there’s no such excuse. Discussions should begin immediately, if they haven’t already.

On one hand, the deal should get done quickly. The market for an established, young, number one wide receiver is set. Look at the numbers for the latest contracts and the age at which these wideouts signed.

Santonio Holmes (27): 5 years, $50 million, $24 million guaranteed.
Miles Austin (26): 7 years, $57 million, $18 million guaranteed.
Brandon Marshall (26): 5 years, $47 million, $12 million guaranteed.
Roddy White (27): 6 years, $48 million, $18 million guaranteed.

White got his deal in 2009, and the average was $8 million. Last offseason Marshall and Austin averaged $9 million a year. Holmes extracted $10 million per season from the Jets a week ago. I would expect about $10 million a year for any contact extension DeSean would sign. That’s the easy part.

But there could be two sticking points in the deal. The first is guaranteed money. The Eagles were already going to be shy about giving Jackson the most guaranteed dollars given his concussion history and slight frame. One big hit could knock him out of the NFL. The Holmes deal, furthermore, raised the bar substantially with $24 million guaranteed. If Drew Rosenhaus wants to use that contract as a guide, it could be more than the Eagles wanted to spend. (Note: as a free agent Holmes had more leverage.)

An even bigger problem could be the length of the deal. Jackson is only 24, younger by two or three years than his comparables. The Eagles, given the risk they probably feel they are assuming with a large contract, will want control over all of DeSean’s prime years. Jackson will want the opportunity for another payday down the line.

Here are my guesses. Given the market, I expect Rosenhaus to start with a deal that would beat Holmes: 5 years, $55 million, $24 million guaranteed. The Eagles first counteroffer might be more like an updated version of Austin’s contract: 7 years, $60 million, $16 million guaranteed.

A fair deal might be something in the middle, perhaps 6 years, $60 million, $18 million guaranteed, although a lot depends on leverage in the negotiations. DeSean won’t want to risk injury without a payday, which the Eagles can basically force him to do. But the Eagles don’t want to lose Jackson in free agency next year. Something’s gotta give.

Photo from Getty.