The 2016-2017 season for the Washington Redskins could end on Sunday, in a heartbreaking loss to the New York Giants (who appear set on playing their starters for some undisclosed duration of time).
If the Redskins do win, and the Lions and Packers don’t finish their game in tie, Washington’s season could end either after a one-and-done appearance in the postseason (do you really trust this defense to go into Seattle or Atlanta and stop either of those offenses?), or some totally unforeseeable run in the NFC playoffs.
But regardless of whether it ends on New Year’s Day, sometime in January, or after the first weekend of February (here’s to irrational hope!), one thing is for certain: that last game the Redskins play this season (or postseason) will be the last time wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be donning and burgundy and gold uniform.
There have been plenty of glaring signs pointing to the fact that Jackson, who is a free agent after this season, not only has little intention of resigning with the Redskins, but wants to return to Philadelphia and sign with the Eagles this upcoming offseason. For example:
- The numerous cryptic posts on Jackson’s Instagram account, talking about 2017 being “game time” (with 2015 and 2016 — aka, his time in Washington — being a prelude), making the best of less-than-optimal circumstances, and difficult roads leading to “beautiful destinations,” among other wanderlust musings.
- The fact the LeSean McCoy said Jackson told him that he’s going back to Philadelphia.
- The recent quote(s) from Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who said that Jackson told him that he’s coming back, and that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson should come get him.
Point being: there’s WAY too much smoke here, for there not to be some raging fire of a story nearby.
Remember: when Jackson left Philadelphia after the 2013 season, it wasn’t because of money or issues with the Eagles organization as a whole. Just like what happened with McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, Jackson was pushed out the door by the megalomanical Chip Kelly, who’s obviously no longer in Philadelphia. Jackson has made it clear in recent statements that his resentment over his departure from Philadelphia had nothing to do with the team, but instead with that one particular person.
While Jackson hasn’t been anywhere near the malcontent in DC that he sometimes was in his Philadelphia days, he’s always been a little bit of a moody guy that marches to the beat of his own drum. The Redskins front office never really loved the idea of Jackson spending the off-seasons training on his own (instead of with the team), especially considering all the lingering injury issues he’s had. But considering he’s otherwise (mostly) been a model citizen during the regular season and in the locker room, the team never really saw his offseason habits as conflict worth pursuing.
But Jackson seems to have soured on his Redskins tenure, especially as this 2016 season progressed. He was actually a regular during the Redskins organized team activities (OTA’s) this past offseason, and came into training camp in fantastic shape, primed to do big things in his “walk year.” Instead, some believe Jackson grew increasingly displeased with the way coaches used him this season, feeling that he he was often used as a little more than a decoy.
Again, Jackson has never really been a guy to hide his emotions (including his displeasure), and there were plenty of times over the last two seasons — and especially this year — where you could see Jackson’s frustration with the fact that Kirk Cousins missed him on the big play opportunities that were there. Cousins errors in missing down field reads are well documented, but it bears repeating that Cousins missed Jackson on multiple occasions that could have led to monster plays throughout the course of the season (a major factor in the ongoing “should the Redskins sign Cousins to a lucrative long-term extension?” debate). There were also plenty of times when Cousins did spot Jackson blowing past defenders, only for him to miss on the throw. For as well as Cousins runs this offense, and as smart and as accurate he’s shown he can be, he doesn’t have that elite-level arm strength, which often leads to him throwing a crappy deep ball.
Now, do you know who has plenty of arm strength, and zero trouble throwing an absolutely gorgeous and well-placed deep ball? That would be Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Philadelphia needs to surround Wentz, their prized rookie quarterback, with any offensive talent — most pressingly at wide receiver — in the worst way. So, it wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprising to see the Eagles give Jackson whatever contract parameters he’s looking for. They don’t have anything close to resembling a #1 receiver; the only receivers of consequence they do have are Jordan Matthews (who’s more of a #2 guy at best), Nelson Agholor (who’s looked absolutely useless for long stretches of his short career to date), and Dorial Green-Beckham (who’s still rawer than raw as a wide receiver).
Chad Ryan of Redskins Capital Connection dropped a couple of interesting nuggets on Twitter yesterday, suggesting: 1) Jackson is enticed by the idea of a LeBron James-style return to Philadelphia, and 2) the Redskins will offer Jackson a short-term contract extension as a somewhat token gesture of trying to bring him back
The Eagles will likely be so desperate for wide receivers that they’d probably welcome Jackson back at any terms, especially knowing the buzz his return would create (and the tickets it would likely help sell). And If Jackson is so eager to leave town and go back to Philadelphia like some type of wide receiver messiah, so be it. There’s no point in trying to sway him from doing otherwise, if his mind is already made up.
From the Redskins perspective, as much as the selection was about “best player available” at that particular moment, Scot McCloughan had to have had this scenario in mind when taking Josh Doctson in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. But of course, while it would’ve been nice to have that first round pick — who many thought was the best wide receiver in his draft class — ready to step up and (theoretically) take Jackson’s place, we have absolutely no idea whether Doctson will amount to anything, since he’s basically missed all of this season with some nagging (and baffling) issue with this Achilles tendon (with Gruden admitting that the doctors “can’t put a finger” on why Doctson felt the pain he did during the preseason and onwards).
The Redskins have the fifth-ranked passing offense in DVOA this season — compared to the 26th ranked passing offense of the Eagles — and could still be even better in 2017 with Cousins getting another full training camp as the starter. Jay Gruden and Sean McVay have proven to be two of the most savvy passing game architects in the NFL, and they’ll still be able to come up with a scheme that maximizes all the talent Washington will still have. The Redskins will almost certainly do whatever they can to resign Pierre Garcon this offseason. Jamison Crowder (this year’s breakout star) will have another year of experience. Jordan Reed — unquestionably one of the three best receiving tight ends in football — will (hopefully) get healthier in the offseason as well. We’re all praying that Doctson overcomes whatever that issue is with this Achilles tendon, and becomes the stud wide receiver most people thought he could develop into. That’s not even mentioning Ryan “Tarzan in Practice, Jane on Gameday” Grant, or Maurice Harris, the interesting undrafted rookie prospect (he just got lost among the cadre of receivers that Jared Goff was throwing to in the “Bear Raid” offense at California ) with NFL size (6’2 and 200lbs), solid hands, polished footwork, and deceptive athleticism.
But Jackson was the guy that defenses constantly had to respect. He’s as good as any wide receiver in the NFL at “taking the top off a defense,” and the threat of a deep ball going his way opened up so much space underneath for guys like Garcon, Crowder, and Reed. He could change the entire tenor of a game with one play; his 44 yard touchdown pass in Week 3, against the New York Giants, might’ve been the play that saved the Redskins season (and sparked the subsequent four-game winning streak). He was one of the few guys that fans of NFC teams in the playoffs — especially those of the Dallas Cowboys — had no desire to face in the postseason. That’s what makes his desire to leave town so disappointing.
Who knew that Jackson’s training camp battles with Josh Norman made for fascinating foreshadowing of future match-ups (as if Norman needs any more rivals in the NFC East).
That, among so many other reasons, was fun while Jackson was on our side. It just seems like that’s not going to be the case for much longer.