Why the Eagles have to avoid romanticizing return of former players


Retrospect is a funny thing. Regardless of what the scenario is, whether it was a decision to change Jobs, to break up with a Partner or even sell a Car, there are always “What if’s”. In the case of the Eagles, looking back at the tumultuous Chip Kelly era is often troubling. LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were just three of the names who were cast away from the City of Brotherly Love. But now the Eagles could potentially be in a position to at least pursue one of their former stars in DeSean Jackson.

Jackson is set to become a Free Agent once the window opens in March..sparking plenty of rumors linking the speedster to the team that drafted him back in 2008. From players on the team hinting at the reunion, to deleted Instagram stories that imply there’s more to this than just hearsay, the link between Jackson and the Eagles has been one of the hottest stories of the year.

It’s easy, when looking back retrospectively to feel angst toward events that unfolded. Maybe seeing your Ex with a new partner makes you jealous, or maybe seeing DeSean Jackson receive for 1,005 yards and 4 touchdowns this season for a divisional rival has the same effect. In that instance, it’s easy to wish for the days of old and put on your finest suit in an attempt to win them back..but even if the serenade was successful, there’s no guarantee things would be as they were.

Yes, DeSean Jackson has had a brilliant season in Washington and the Veteran receiver has dazzled the world once again with his blistering speed, proving that Age is not going to stop him from the electrifying catches we all know and love. But Howie Roseman made a very interesting point in his press conference today:

“Ideally in free agency, you are signing 26/27-year-old guys who can be a part of the core. Unfortunately, teams are doing a good job locking those guys up.”

“….It seems like a long time ago that we were leading the NFL in 20+ yard plays..” “…I don’t have a DeLorean time machine to go back in time and get some of those guys back.”

The focal point of Roseman’s press conference, was discipline. The Eagles are building around the core of the franchise. With Carson Wentz at quarterback and Fletcher cox at Defensive Tackle, the Birds have to build an extremely strong team around them in order to make those investments worth it. Signing a veteran FA like DeSean Jackson would no doubt bolster the Eagles receiving corps, but for how long..and for how much?

DeSean Jackson ranks 23rd in receiving this year, which is still highly commendable. The Eagles leading wide receiver, Jordan Matthews, ranks 48th. The problem is that Jackson’s stellar year is going to generate a lot of interest from teams who like the Eagles, need help on the outside desperately.

Knowing that the Eagles are by all accounts interested, Jackson has plenty of leverage when it comes to negotiating a deal. The problem is that the Eagles aren’t exactly in a luxurious Salary Cap situation. With nine pending Free agents and potential extensions coming into the fray, the Eagles have to be strict and smart during what could be the most important offseason in recent memory.

Jackson’s services are going to come at a price. On a short-term deal, Jackson could easily sap up a few million purely because he deserves it. To make him affordable, the Eagles (unless they can negotiate a pay-cut) would simply have to look at a longer term deal..which brings up a second hurdle.

“We have to be disciplined. We have to stick to our plan. We have to stick to our process. That has to show up in the draft. I’m sure that everyone can sit here and write about positions of need, we understand that. We’re going to do what’s right when you have young players.” 

The Eagles are a very young team and the WR corps is currently one of the youngest in the league. When Jordan Matthews was injured, the position consisted of two sophomore wideouts and two undrafted rookies. Although that can make the idea of a Jackson reunion even more appealing, there’s a different motive.

The Eagles are building a team that can develop with their cornerstone players. A team that when Wentz hits is prime, will also be following the same pattern, creating a deep roster of talent who are all on the same page.

DeSean Jackson is 30-years old and hasn’t played a full season since leaving the City of Brotherly Love. Not that he’s particularly injury prone, but his average of 13.3 games per season is worth noting. But that’s not the biggest concern.

The way that the Eagles are now structuring deals sees the team low-balling in the early years, often undercutting what players were previously earning (Celek/Johnson) before then paying the big bucks later on. The hypothesis being that in the final years of a players contract, they have developed to a point where they have earned that kind of money, as opposed to paying for potential.

Jackson is a veteran..and one who if given a mid/long term deal, could see him in Philadelphia until he’s 33-36, depending on the contract and terms. There’s no guarantee that Jackson’s form won’t decline as he gets older. Even if it doesn’t, the Eagles will then be paying the likes of Ertz, Jenkins, Johnson, Curry and Cox copious amounts of money as well as having to factor in another deal of the same structure. Something that may not be financially viable if the team are to undergo surgery to fix the problem for good, as opposed to putting band aids on for temporary relief.

If the Eagles paid Jackson big money on a short-term deal, it defeats the object of many moves made by the team this season. Bringing in a star receiver with a hefty price tag would imply a deep playoff charge..and as of right now there are too many holes on the roster for this team to mount such a thing, especially with the strength of NFC East teams moving forward. To put it simply the Eagles are not a “DeSean Jackson” away from 10-6.

On the flip-side, Jordan Matthews will be entering his fourth season in the league and Zach Ertz his fifth. This is a chance for the Eagles to take the core of receiving targets and really turn it into a well-oiled machine, just like we see in New England or Kansas City.

If the Eagles do make a push for DeSean Jackson, which is something they could very likely end up doing, the past has to stay in the past and cannot factor into these negotiations. Paying DeSean Jackson for the player he was and the memories he created could sting the Eagles in more ways than one in years to come. Romanticizing a reunion between a player and former team is all well and good, until it conflicts with the direction that the team are progressively trying to veer toward.

That’s not to say that the move won’t happen or that it shouldn’t. Jackson is one of the top free agent wide receivers coming into the window and the majority of Eagles fans clammer for the return of a receiver who defined the term “Bleed green”. But as Howie Roseman said, it’s not as simple as turning back time..and just like repairing a broken relationship, it’s never going to be as magical as it was the first time round.