DeSean Jackson is back from his hamstring injury, one that cost him most of the first seven games of the season. He caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to open the scoring in the Redskins’ key win over the Giants last Sunday. The eighth-year veteran also caught a 42-yard pass in the early going against the Saints and a 56-yard touchdown pass against the Panthers.
Those are some impressive and important plays. But the problem is that Jackson has not done much besides making those three big plays. Outside of those plays, Jackson has nine receptions for 51 yards. That’s an average of 5.7 yards per catch. In case you’re wondering, that’s not good.
For his production this year he is costing the Redskins a salary cap charge of $9.25 million. That makes him the ninth highest paid wide receiver in the league in terms of 2015 cap dollars. Certainly the Redskins have the right to expect more bang for their buck than a maximum of nine games (not counting the season opener in which he was injured early) and maybe 600 yards receiving and four or five touchdowns.
Sure the injury is a huge factor. But nobody was particularly shocked when Jackson pulled up lame in the season opener. He was only an occasional participant in the voluntary offseason program. He suffered a mild shoulder injury in training camp, one that should have sidelined him for a week or two. But he chose to sit out the entire preseason and he eased into the regular season. Jackson admitted to the media that perhaps his lack of work prior to the opener may have contributed to the hamstring injury.
But Jackson is one of the best at what he does, catching deep passes. He is a weapon like few other teams have. Should the Redskins bring back Jackson in 2016?
They have three realistic options:
Bring him back under his current deal: On the books his contract has two years left on it but 2017 will void so in reality the contract ends after next season. He would cost $9.25 million against the salary cap (salary cap info from OverTheCap.com).
Release him: They could decide that they would rather move on and try to find a free agent or draft pick who would come with a lower price tag and a more desirable work ethic. There is no guaranteed money left on the contract so they would simply eat $2.5 million from his signing bonus and move on.
Renegotiate his contract: Jackson turned 29 yesterday and he is getting to the point in his career where if he wants to continue to perform in the fall, he has to put in extra work in the spring and summer. Some players, like Santana Moss, get that, put in the work, and extend their careers. Others do not and fade from the scene. Perhaps the Redskins could work out a deal with Jackson that will give him some guaranteed money (players approaching age 30 hate have deals with no guarantees) and give him financial incentives to work out.
They could throw out the last year of his deal and work out something that would guarantee him, say, $12 million over three years. Included in the deal could be a big workout bonus, which would pay out if he attends at least 90 percent of the offseason program. The contract could also be set up so it pays him a relatively low salary and per-game roster bonuses that are paid if Jackson is on the 46-man active roster for a game. That would give him a strong financial incentive to stay in shape so he can stay on the field.
It’s hard to see Scot McCloughan letting the current deal ride. If Jackson is going to stay, the GM will want something that will ensure that he puts in the offseason work. So putting the three options in order, I would figure that having him back on his current contract is the least likely (but still quite possible) with a flat release in the middle and a redone deal as the most likely.
We will have a better handle on all of this after the season is over. A couple of big games in key situations would make his return more likely; another injury could have him looking for work elsewhere next year.