Redskins Player Profile: DeSean Jackson

Posted on June 28, 2014 by Bryan Frantz

The epitome of a playmaker, DeSean Jackson at his best is unstoppable and hopefully nothing more than containable. His signing with the Redskins has the potential to be the single biggest move of the 2014 NFL free agency, but it also has the potential to be just another Redskins free-agency bust.

For reference, see: Haynesworth, Albert; Archuleta, Adam; Stubblefield, Dana; Sanders, Deion.

For what it's worth, I see Jackson being a lot closer to steal than bust on the free-agency spectrum, if for no other reason than the contract. When you look at the big-name players Washington has signed since Dan Snyder has owned the team, you can find a massive, almost hilarious contract to go along with almost all of them. 

This has not been the case recently, though media outlets and exasperated Redskins fans will never fail to lament past failures when discussing the latest high-profile signing.

While Jackson is a big name coming off a career-best season and is littered with red flags (much like the aforementioned Mr. Haynesworth), the Redskins did not lose their collective mind when going after him. They signed him to a very reasonable contract that becomes more manageable each season, and if things go horribly wrong, the Skins can be rid of him by 2016 without much difficulty.

The list of pros and cons would, quite literally, require pages to compose, but Jackson is essentially an all-or-nothing player. His highlight reel is stunning:

Watching him burn defenses is eerily similar to what I imagine Usain Bolt looks like when running the 200m against the Wilson High School track team:

Then again, for every 100-yard game he had last season, he had a sub-40-yard game (five of each). And that was his best season as a pro.

Projecting Jackson this season is all about perspective. On the one hand, he: 

  • Is undersized
  • Is allegedly connected to gang activity
  • Was released by the only team he's ever played for after a career-best season
  • Has only played 16 games in two of his six seasons
  • Has already had a minor injury concern this offseason
However, on that glorious other hand, he:
  • Is a big-play receiver
  • Either just hit, or has yet to hit, his prime
  • Has more than 900 receiving yards in five of his six seasons (the only season he missed 900 yards was also the only season he played fewer than 14 games)
  • Has averaged a touchdown almost every two games for his career
  • Is coming off a season of 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns
  • Is a former division rival who has made you look incredibly silly in the recent past

But if Jackson, who should be more motivated than ever this season, can produce even one season on par with what he did last year under Chip Kelly, the Redskins have pretty much gotten their money's worth. Consider, for a moment, the Greg Jennings situation.

Jennings is a receiver who came to Minnesota from division rival Green Bay a year before Jackson went on the move. Jennings is a little more than three years older than Jackson, has the same number of 900-yard and 1,000-yard seasons as Jackson but has never eclipsed the 1,300-yard mark (as Jackson did last year) and was signed to a longer contract. 

Jennings' deal: Signed last offseason, five years, pays him an average salary of $9 million and guarantees $17.8 million.

Jackson's deal: Signed this offseason, four years, pays him an average salary of $8 million and guarantees $16 million.

Jennings also had Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre throwing him the ball throughout his career in Green Bay; Jackson had a combination of Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb, Vince Young and Nick Foles throwing to him. If I'm a receiver trying to pad my numbers, give me the perennial 4,000-yard passers in Wisconsin over the traveling circus in Pennsylvania.

Jackson is a player who could easily go the way of the, unfortunately, typical Redskins free agent, and Skins fans might very well be adding another player to the mental block list in a few years. However, he is also coming from a division rival, is just entering his prime (whereas so many Snyder guys are well past it) and has a major chip on his shoulder after being outright released by his former team.

His current situation also resembles some of the situations he's had success in before. For example, he had some very productive seasons with Michael Vick, a mobile quarterback with a rocket arm, at the helm. Boom, Robert Griffin III. Moving on. He thrived opposite a fellow playmaking receiver in Jeremy Maclin. DeSean, meet Pierre Garcon. He had his best season under a first-time NFL head coach who relied on him heavily. For the Redskins, he will play under first-time NFL head coach Jay Gruden, who is known for running a pass-heavy offense and loves to take deep shots (A.J. Green, anybody?).

There is really no doubting that the Skins made the right choice in signing him, at least based off what we currently know. He drastically improves their offense, provides a dynamic one-two punch with Pierre Garcon (not to mention an above-average WR3 in Andre Roberts) and adds a completely new element to a team that hasn't had a receiver to strike fear in defensive coordinators since … umm, maybe Santana Moss in 2005?

And worst-case scenario: Jackson has some crazy off-the-field issue that prevents him from reaching his potential. If Washington gets a few decent games out of him beforehand, it's still a better deal than at least, at least, half the transactions made in the Daniel Snyder era. And even in its worst incarnation, it would still be a transaction that would make Vinny Cerrato's highlight reel.

Finally, have I mentioned that the Redskins signed a potentially elite receiver who doesn't turn 28 until December and they're going to pair him with an already solid receiving corps that is entirely comprised of players under 28 (Moss excluded)? And they stole him from a division rival that they get to play eight times, in the regular season, before Jackson's contract is up? 

Yeah. This signing makes a lot of sense.

Why, yes, I do Twitter: @BFrantz202

next up:

Redskins Position Breakdown: Wide Receiver

June 25, 2014

What can we expect from the Redskins' wide receiver position in 2014.

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