Over the last week, one of the more interesting stories from around the NFL has been that the Philadelphia Eagles are currently shopping star wide-receiver DeSean Jackson for a potential trade.
On the surface, Jackson should be a valuable commodity on the trade market. He is just 27 years old, and coming off a year in which he set career highs with 82 receptions and 1332 yards. There are also very few players in the league that possess his combination of speed and short-area quickness.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Jackson’s contract will make trading him very difficult, if not impossible. Jackson is owed $10.5 million in 2014, and 100% of that would count against the cap for what ever team trades for him. Many of the teams that could use Jackson’s talents lack the cap space to acquire the wide receiver.
Eighteen of the NFL’s 32 teams currently have less than $10.5 million in available cap space. This includes wide-receiver-needy teams like the 49ers, Rams and Panthers. In order for these teams to acquire Jackson, they’d be forced to first release other players to free up the required cap space.
It is possible for Jackson to restructure his contract. This would make it more cap-friendly for the 2014 season and thus easier for him to be traded, but the likelihood of that happening is extremely small. Doing so does little to benefit the Eagles or Jackson.
For the Eagles, such a restructure might make Jackson easier to trade, but it would also decrease the cap space that would be generated by trading him. As it stands now, the Eagles will free up $6.5 million in cap space by cutting or trading Jackson.
By converting much of Jackson 2014 salary into a signing bonus, they would lower the 2014 cap number for the team that acquires him, but it would also decrease the cap savings for the Eagles by the same amount. Doing so would remove the only real benefit to trading Jackson.
For Jackson, there is even less incentive to re-work his deal. All it would do is facilitate a trade to a team that that wouldn’t be of his choosing, while simultaneously weakening his new team by whatever compensation is sent to Philadelphia in the trade.
Jackson would also end up in a situation with no security after the 2014 season. Jackson’s contract would contain no guaranteed money, and there would be no dead-money left on the books for his new team. Jackson could be cut at any time after the trade with no salary-cap penalty.
For Jackson, the ideal outcome in this situation is to be released and become a free agent. He would then have his choice as to which team he’d play for in 2014. He would also be able to negotiate into his new contract the types of guaranteed salary and dead-money-inducing bonus pay that would provide some degree of security for the next two or three seasons.
All of these contract details likely end up working in favor of those people who currently own Jackson in keeper and dynasty leagues. Since a trade is unlikely, it leaves Jackson in one of two situations. Either he will stay with the Eagles, where he will continue to flourish in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, or he’ll be released.
If released, Jackson will almost certainly seek out an offense that will allow him to put up some impressive stats, and will likely stay away from overly run-heavy teams like Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco that would correspond to a serious dip in his fantasy production. Also, since new contracts are often structured in a way that keeps the year-one cap hit minimal, Jackson’s being released would allow him to consider teams that lack the cap space to trade for his services.
The one team that appears to be able to screw all of this up in the New York Jets. The Jets have the cap space needed to acquire Jackson, and could use an upgrade at wide receiver. This would likely be a problem for Jackson’s fantasy outlook given the unsettled quarterback situation that the Jets have at the moment.
GM John Idzik wouldn’t answer questions about DeSean Jackson, but said he’s not philosophically opposed to having 2 big-money WRs. #nyj
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 25, 2014
Overall this is an interesting saga that will unfold in the next few days. If Jets’ general manager John Idzik isn’t able to work out a trade for the mercurial receiver soon, then expect to see Jackson released or a statement saying that he’s going to be staying with the team for 2014.