The Philadelphia Eagles released Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson in a cost-cutting transaction as they try to work their way out of massive salary cap debt, but their loss could well be a Super Bowl contender’s gain in 2021.
It’s true that Jackson can’t be considered one of the premier free agents on the market, and that he’s played in only eight games across the past two seasons. Nevertheless, he’s worth a one-year contract, because if he stays healthy, he could be an X-factor on a championship team.
Here’s a look at the five best fits for Jackson on the open market — and they all happen to have at least a puncher’s chance at a Lombardi Trophy.
DeSean Jackson to Kansas City Chiefs
Jackson just wrapped up his second stint with the Eagles. The team initially gave him his shot in the NFL, selecting Jackson in the second round of the 2008 draft. His coach at the time was Andy Reid, who’s proceeded to win a Super Bowl in Kansas City since.
Obviously, Jackson is familiar with Reid’s schemes, and the coach knows how to deploy Jackson to maximum efficacy. The explosive, speedy wideout had his best years under Reid’s guidance in Philly.
It’s not too far-fetched to suggest Jackson can be a stud next year for the Chiefs. They’re potentially losing Sammy Watkins, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson to free agency, leaving Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman as their only viable receivers.
While Pringle and Robinson wouldn’t be expensive to bring back, Reid and the Kansas City front office have to at least consider Jackson a possibility. The combination of him, hill and Hardman would give the Chiefs the fastest receiving corps in the NFL, and provide Patrick Mahomes with yet another downfield threat.
As long as Jackson remains healthy, he could make KC’s passing game even more difficult to stop than it already is.
DeSean Jackson to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why not follow up an Eagles encore act with one in Tampa Bay? The difference from when Jackson was there only a couple seasons ago is that Jameis Winston has been replaced at quarterback by the GOAT, Tom Brady.
Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson came through in a big way for the Bucs in big spots throughout their run to Super Bowl LV, but Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown will be free agents. That leaves only Mike Evans as the marquee veteran receiver on Tampa Bay’s roster right now.
Instead of shelling out a ton of cash to keep Godwin or continue taking the risk on Brown, it might be a better course of action for the Bucs to just bring Jackson aboard.
Tampa’s deep passing attack is ideally suited to Jackson’s primary strengths as a player. Being able to line up opposite Evans would free him up for favorable, one-on-one matchups, and having a full offseason to get on the same page with Brady could result in a shocking resurgence for Jackson.
As he approaches age 35 in December, perhaps Jackson could be inspired by Brady’s example as an ageless football wonder and help the Bucs’ bid to win back-to-back championships.
DeSean Jackson to Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are among the top receiver duos in the NFL, and second-year player Van Jefferson flashed as a rookie when given the chance. That said, none of them boast the game-changing speed that Jackson has.
With a brand-new quarterback in Matthew Stafford who can stretch the field far better than his departed predecessor Jared Goff, Rams coach Sean McVay has to be in the market for a pure deep threat receiver, which is precisely what Jackson is.
Stafford has an absolute cannon for a right arm and is among the premier deep-ball throwers in the NFL. That vertical element has been noticeably absence in McVay’s offense since he took over in Los Angeles.
Imagine what McVay could dial up with a weapon like Jackson on the outside. The Rams love to run underneath crossing patterns and utilize lots of play-action, which plays even more into what Jackson brings to the gridiron.
It wouldn’t be difficult for Jackson to pick up McVay’s system, and he’d likely be drawn to the idea of returning to Los Angeles, where he was born, for a homecoming to cap off his career — not to mention a real chance at his first Super Bowl victory.
DeSean Jackson to Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t given any new toys last offseason. All he did was proceed to have a career year and win NFL MVP honors, leading the Packers to a second straight NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, Green Bay fell short once again of the top prize, and perhaps another playmaker in the receiving corps could’ve pushed the team over the top.
The scary thing about Rodgers’ phenomenal 2020 vengeance tour? It could’ve been much better with a deeper cast of skill players, per QB Data Mine:
With Davante Adams already in the fold as arguably the NFL’s top receiver at the minute, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling proving to be a big-play producer, what could it hurt to bring Jackson in as yet another pass-catcher who can fully capitalize on Rodgers’ long-throwing prowess?
Limited cap space could be a hurdle Green Bay needs to clear in order to bring someone like Jackson aboard. However, he doesn’t exactly have a ton of leverage given his injury-plagued past two seasons, and it stands to reason Jackson would take a pay cut for the chance to catch passes from Rodgers for one year.
While it’s possible the Packers could resort to the draft and get more of a long-term player to add to their receivers room, now is not the time for prioritizing the future. Green Bay must do all it can to maximize its current championship window, because if it only wins one Super Bowl in Rodgers’ tenure, that’d go down as quite the wasted opportunity.
Jackson makes a little more sense at the other three destinations, but if those don’t work out, look for Rodgers to lobby for him over an incoming rookie.
DeSean Jackson to Indianapolis Colts
Unlike the other four teams on this list, Indianapolis isn’t necessarily a certain Super Bowl contender, but other uncommon, positive elements that could lead Jackson to the Colts is his familiarity factor with quarterback Carson Wentz and the fact that Indy has tons of cap room.
Reuniting with Wentz, who just joined the Colts in a big trade, has to appeal to Jackson. There were no signs the two didn’t get along in Philadelphia, and perhaps both would still be in an Eagles uniform of Jackson were able to stay healthy and help him out on the field.
This could be a feeling of unfinished business between the quarterback and receiver. Both were cast aside by the Eagles and thought to be incapable of contributing to their future. Jackson could earn quite a bit more money by joining Indianapolis, and he’d join a strong, positive culture under head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard.
Part of the reason the Colts have so much cap room is the masterful job Ballard has done acquiring young talent. As a result of that, the team doesn’t have any returning veteran receivers, as T.Y. Hilton is an unrestricted free agent.
With Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell projected to start at receiver in 2021, there’s an obvious need for an experienced presence at the position. Jackson fits the bill perfectly, and his innate chemistry with Wentz would help Indy hit on some more explosive passing plays.