The Eagles took an important step in solidifying the team's offense for 2012 by placing the franchise tag Thursday on wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
When Jackson signs, the tender will become a fully guaranteed one-year contract worth $9.4 million. Until Jackson signs, he is free to negotiate with other NFL teams beginning March 13 at 4 PM EST. If Jackson signs an offer sheet with another team, the Eagles have the right to match that offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation for Jackson's departure.
"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that," said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. "DeSean is a talented player and a proven playmaker in this league and we look forward to him continuing his career in Philadelphia. It's our understanding that he has the same desire. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him."
The Eagles can also simply use the one-year tender as a placeholder until the two sides hammer out a long-term contract. The deadline for the Eagles and Jackson to agree on a long-term extension prior to the start of the 2012 season is July 16. Last year, the Eagles applied the exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Michael Vick before ironing out a new six-year contract.
Speaking with Sirius NFL Radio before learning of the Eagles' placement of the franchise tag on Jackson, Drew Rosenhaus, Jackson's agent, agreed that a long-term deal would be the goal.
"If a player is franchised, it certainly doesn't mean that you have to play for that franchise tag for that year," Rosenhaus said. "You obviously have the opportunity to get a deal done afterwards, before training camp starts, you have time to work out a long-term contract. So if my clients get franchised, believe me we're going to roll up our sleeves and hope that we can convert that into a multi-year contract."
A second-round pick of the Eagles (No. 49 overall) in 2008, Jackson earned Pro Bowl honors following the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In fact, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to earn a Pro Bowl invite at two positions (wide receiver and return specialist) in the same season (2009).
Since entering the league, the 5-10, 175-pound Jackson leads the NFL in yards per catch (17.8) among players with 200-or-more receptions and ranks fourth in punt return yardage (1,226). Jackson is the first player in NFL history to post 3,500 receiving yards and 1,000 punt returns yards in his first four combined NFL seasons. Of Jackson's 30 career touchdowns, 22 have spanned 30-or-more yards, including one of the greatest plays in NFL history - the 65-yard walkoff punt return touchdown to beat the Giants in 2010. Last season, Jackson had 58 catches for 961 yards (16.6 average) and four touchdowns in 15 games.
With the tag applied to Jackson, the Eagles have both of their starting receivers - Jackson and Jeremy Maclin - in position to return in 2012 along with Jason Avant coming out of the slot. Jackson, Maclin and Avant each had at least 52 catches and 679 receiving yards in 2011. The Eagles also have their tallest receiver, the 6-3 Riley Cooper, entering his third NFL season along with multi-purpose weapon Chad Hall. In the offseason, the Eagles added former St. Louis Rams receiver and returner Mardy Gilyard. The Eagles also have Jamel Hamler and Ron Johnson, who spent time with the Eagles this past season.
There are 11 other Eagles scheduled to become free agents on March 13 - defensive end Victor Abiamiri, running back Ronnie Brown, defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, offensive tackle King Dunlap, defensive tackles Derek Landri and Trevor Laws, guard Evan Mathis, defensive end Juqua Parker, fullback Owen Schmitt, wide receiver Steve Smith and quarterback Vince Young.
The Eagles cannot place the franchise tag or transition tag on any other player. However, Dixon is scheduled to become a restricted free agent. The Eagles can therefore tender Dixon a one-year offer with the value determined by the draft pick compensation the Eagles would receive if he signed with another team.
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