Pay DeSean Jackson Today!

Some thoughts on why the Eagles might be waiting to re-sign their biggest receiving weapon

DeSean Jackson dropped what would have been an 87-yard TD Sunday afternoon against the Rams, and you could almost hear his critics clucking. How can you pay somebody big money who isn’t the total package? Why would you devote $25 million or so to a receiver who doesn’t make plays consistently?

With one game of the 2011 season completed, DeSean Jackson is still without a new contract. As he toils for a salary of $565,000 -– a fabulous wage for most of the planet but cut-rate compensation for standout football players -– Jackson is taking a big chance. One headhunting safety could ruin his opportunity for a fat payday. An off-the-mark throw over the middle could lead him into a concussion that ends his season, or worse, career.

And yet Jackson was all over the turf in St. Louis Sunday, catching six passes for 102 yards and a score in the Eagles’ 31-13 triumph over the Rams. He may have dropped that long one, but Jackson made a fine play on a 41-yard throw by Michael Vick while sandwiched between a pair of defenders. He lost his helmet on the play -– one would imagine he should have three chinstraps on that sucker –- and showed that he isn’t just a show horse; he can get into the muck, too. On a day when Vick’s other targets combined for eight receptions and 85 yards, Jackson was clearly the Birds’ main weapon.

And now, he should be their top-paid weapon. I’m not talking Michael Vick money, but if the Eagles don’t stop fooling around and give Jackson a new contract soon, like this week, things could end up bad for both sides.

Last week brought news of several new fat deals. The Cowboys gave tight end Jason Witten a five-year, $37 million contract, with $19 million guaranteed. And he’s a tight end! The Vikings rewarded Adrian Peterson’s tremendous first four seasons with a payday that guarantees him $36 million over seven years and could top out at nine figures — $100 mil. Pittsburgh extended safety Troy Polamalu for four years, inking the paper at the airport before the Steelers flew to Baltimore for Sunday’s paper.

Everybody’s doing it. But why are the Eagles waiting so long with Jackson?

For a while we heard that a new deal for the receiver couldn’t come until the free-agency period was over. Then Vick had to get paid. But why the delay now? It couldn’t be that despite all the happy feelings surrounding the summer spending spree and the warmth of the Vick contract the Eagles continue to be an organization that views football from a cold, bottom-line perspective, now could it? That Jackson’s history of concussions has given them pause about his long-term viability and that with Vick (and Shady McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and maybe even Steve Smith) in the fold, Jackson is viewed as something of a luxury and the ultimate decision regarding his fate will be made after the season?

That would be a mistake. If the Eagles decide to leave Jackson’s bank account alone until next winter, they will most certainly lose the receiver. The Birds have now won nine straight games in which Jackson has gone over 100 yards receiving. His presence on the field forces defenses to devote extra attention his way, helping open things for Jackson’s teammates, when the receiver isn’t overcoming the double-teams with his superior speed and instincts.

When teams go shopping for personnel at the NFL market, the shelves are filled with solid performers and even above-average types. Finding talent of Jackson’s caliber requires a keen eye, because it isn’t in abundance. DeSean Jackson talents are usually found in pricey boutiques, not Wal-Mart. The Eagles got lucky when they plucked Jackson in the second round of the 2008 draft. Not only has he proved wrong those who speculated that his thin build would be detrimental to success; he has also failed to replicate any of the petulant behavior (okay, the vast majority of it) he demonstrated in college. Jackson is a full-fledged receiving savant and must be compensated as one. He doesn’t deserve Larry Fitzgerald money (eight years, $120 million, $50 million guaranteed), but he should get a contract that assures him $20-25 million, with a fat back end, should Jackson stay healthy and continue to go deep.

And the time to do it is now. Today. If the Eagles fail to reward Jackson with compensation commensurate with his accomplishments and value to the team, then all of the goodwill generated by the previous month-plus of spending will be erased, and the organization’s true colors will be revealed. Jackson deserves big money right now, and refusing to pay him could well backfire. If the Eagles are serious about winning a title, they need elite players. Jackson fits that description. Compensate him now or pay a bigger price down the road.


* This week’s 6-1 mark against the fading Braves and Brewers proves what everybody already knew: the Phillies are the National League’s regular-season titans. With that come expectations (World Series or bust!) and rewards (plenty of late-September rest). Charlie Manuel’s challenge is to give his players time off without shutting down the engines completely.

* Starting the season 2-0 with wins over a rebuilding Villanova team and a weak Akron outfit isn’t reason for celebration at Temple, but give the Owls credit for taking care of their business in impressive fashion. That’s the mark of a mature program that knows how to win.

* Losing to Alabama is no sin, particularly since the Crimson Tide might have college football’s best defense. But Penn State doesn’t appear to be in the same class as ‘Bama, and that’s not good news. Joe Paterno must choose a quarterback and stick with him, the better to build some continuity, and the defense has to stand up. That trip to Philly Saturday for a game with Temple won’t be an easy one, especially for a team with so many questions.