April 26, 2008 DeSean Jackson’s life changed forever. The PAC-10 all time leader in punts returned for a touchdown had left his college, University of California, for dreams of the NFL. Hundreds of players look to make the jump each year but only a select few will hear their name got called during those two days in April. The question for Jackson wasn’t if he would hear his name, he knew he would, but how soon. Leaving Cal as a junior, Jackson was rated as one of the top 10 receivers to head into the draft and he had plans on going in the first round. He had lit the PAC-10 on fire with a great sophomore season where he caught nine touchdowns and 1,060 yards. He showed off his explosive playmaking ability both as a receiver but also as a return man.
Even though Jackson had a down junior season, he entered the draft anyway. After having a great combine (4.35 40 time) it looked like Jackson would indeed be a first round pick. But the two knocks on Jackson heading into the draft cost him. The first was his size. Jackson was listed as 5’9 and only 170 pounds and teams thought he was undersized for the league. The other was his attitude. Jackson was known as a cocky player who had tons of talent but to quote Terrell Owens “I love me some me.” Jackson was good and he knew it and didn’t hesitate to show off at the expense of the competition. In the Army All American game in high school Jackson was named MVP but the award was overshadowed by his stupidity when he leaped from the 5 yard line into the end zone but landed at the one instead.
Because of these two concerns Jackson dropped farther than he ever expected, middle of the second round. Jackson was chosen as forty ninth player in the 2008 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the seventh receiver taken after the likes of Donnie Avery, Devin Thomas (since cut by the Redskins) Jordy Nelson, James Hardy (since cut by the Bills) Eddie Royal, and Jerome Simpson. He wasn’t even the Eagles first pick, being chosen after defensive tackle Trevor Laws (47th overall) out of Notre Dame. It was a moment that should have been a humbling experience for the young wide out but instead added a chip on his shoulders.
To look at the list of receivers taken before Jackson is to look at a list of average receivers, and then some downright bad receivers. Jackson is the only receiver out of the 2008 draft to reach the Pro Bowl and the only receiver to catch 1,000 yards. He immediately became a fan favorite with his play making ability both as a returner, and a receiver, and his flashy style of play. He was good and he knew it, and he definitely knew he should have been drafted a lot higher than forty ninth overall.
When Jackson signed with the Eagles he agreed to a four year deal for $3.4 million dollar contract. He now has one more year left. When he arrived at training camp in August he said he would not be talking to the media because he was frustrated about his current contract, and the Eagles unwillingness to negotiate an extension. Like so many players in professional sports Jackson signed a contract, then outperformed everyone in his draft class and thought he deserved more money. Obviously Jackson has learned nothing from former Eagles wide out Terrell Owens who was also cocky, confident, and talented, but tried to negotiate through the media and eventually got cut.
The Eagles just don’t negotiate through the media and usually get annoyed when players start complaining about their contracts through the media. But after Jackson’s week 14 matchup against the Cowboys where Jackson caught 4 passes for 210 yards and a very dramatic touchdown, Jackson went on Versus The TOCHO show and brought up his contract.
“Theres a lot of ins and outs to go into it but TO man hey imma set the bar for you man, im gonna try to get the most I can” Said Jackson “Hey man they gonna have to do something man cause the way im puttin it in, hey something gotta happen man.”
These quotes came just a day after the Phillies welcomed back beloved pitcher Cliff Lee, who gave up more money to come play in Philadelphia. So naturally after seeing a player sacrifice millions of dollars one day Philly fans were a little turned off by Jacksons braggadocios statements that he would take the Eagles for as much as he could. The statements brought a smile to Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco but brought concern from a fan base that sees their young star turning into the next TO.
I think all Eagles fans can agree that Jackson is deserving of an extension and likely will get one. Compared to other receivers in the league and their pay scale Jackson is not getting paid nearly what he is worth. Compared to the contracts of Derek Mason ($3.5 million for the 2010 season and has caught 676 yards for 6 TD) and even a guy like Brandon Marshall ($4 million for the 2010 season and has caught 709 yards for 2 TD) you realize that Jackson is being vastly underpaid. Jackson is making just $470,000 but has caught 972 yards for 6 TD. While Jackson is deserving of an extension he is annoying fans, and likely ownership by how he is going about trying to get one.
I’m here to tell Eagles fans not to get annoyed. I know that we all have a new found respect for a guy like Cliff Lee after he turned down money to come here but it’s much different circumstances. Since Jackson’s appearance on the TOCHO show I’ve heard many fans compare the two saying that Jackson shouldn’t be greedy and shouldn’t be looking to take the Eagles to the cleaners. He should be a little more like Cliff Lee and look at the situation he has in Philadelphia, and not the money. Cliff Lee is a rarity in pro sports and a very rich rarity at that. The difference between Jackson and Lee is that in baseball all contracts are guaranteed where as in football they aren’t. The only guaranteed money a player will get is his signing bonus and the higher the contract, the higher the signing bonus so it makes sense for Jackson to want to take the Eagles for as much as he could.
Jackson is also a twenty four year old kid who knows he is one of the best receivers in the league, and also knows he isn’t getting paid like it. I’m sure his agent Drew Rosenhaus has also made the receiver well aware of the fact that the Eagles routinely have a mass amount of money available and are never up against the cap. Its one of the reasons they are able to get the free agents they desire because they have more money to invest in free agents then other teams. In 2009, the last year of the salary cap in the NFL, the salary cap was 128 million but without a cap teams can spend whatever they want on free agents. The Eagles are currently ranked 21st in the NFL in players salary ($109,557,398) yet Forbes listed the Eagles as the 7th most valuable franchise in football.
While it looks like Jackson is being another prima donna he’s not. Both Jackson and the Eagles know he’s worth more than what he is currently being paid and like most athletes he is going to look to get every last dime he can. He’s just like 90% of athletes out there; he just went out and told you what you already knew. Players don’t hire Drew Rosenhaus in football, or Scott Boras in baseball, to give hometown discounts. When players sign with these “super agents” they are looking for one thing and that is to get paid. DeSean Jackson will get paid if not now then in the not so distant future. But don’t get mad at Jackson for saying what every athlete is thinking. Just like Rod Tidwell in the movie “Jerry Maguire” Jackson just wants the Eagles to show him the money.