Aug 052011
Eagles WR DeSean Jackson

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (photo: Wigstruck)

The stare-down between the Eagles and superstar wide receiver DeSean Jackson just got real.

According to varied sources all players must report to their respective team’s camps by August 9 or lose credit for a year of service toward unrestricted free agency. Previously the NFL Players Association was pushing for a reporting date requirement of 23 days after the start of the league year but it looks like the NFL will get its way on this one.

So that pushes up DeSean’s timeline to make a decision on whether to end his holdout. As it stands, he’s still subject to a fine of $30,000 every day he holds out once the league year starts. And since he’s making less than $600,000 this year that could be a bit of a problem.

The big picture issue though is the loss of unrestricted free agency.

If DeSean doesn’t report by August 9 and loses that year of credit, he’ll still be stuck at three years service time. Under the old and now new CBA, unrestricted free agency is only granted to players with four years of service. He’ll actually have until Week 10 to report to toll the fourth year of his contract, but he’d still only be a restricted free agent after the season. He’s basically be in the same position he is now, just without an actual contract.

In theory, DeSean can still get paid even if he does hold out past the August 9 date, making the loss of the service year meaningless. This is what cornerback Darrelle Revis did last season with the Jets. And eventually Revis got paid, service credit be damned.

The problem? During his State of the Team address Thursday morning, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated the team won’t negotiate with a holdout.

“I’m not going to talk publicly about any of the dealings with him, but it’s all positive, and we look forward to DeSean being here and working things out in a great way going forward,” Lurie said.

When asked directly if the team would negotiate with a player not in camp, Lurie was clear.

“That’s been our philosophy consistently, yes.”

That’s not the coach drawing a line, or the general manager, or even the team president. That’s the owner, and the proverbial and literal buck stops there.

No word yet if DeSean is planning any driveway situps, but the next question really becomes whether holding out Revis-style is worth it. Yes the free agency credit is a huge leverage point for the Eagles, but there’s really no way DeSean can go into the season under his current contract. He needs to get paid and he needs to get paid now.

A player of DeSean’s stature is always going to be an injury risk, and really, that’s likely one of the main hangups in the negotiations. How much should be given to an undersized receiver who already got his bell run very loudly just last season? That Dunta Robinson hit really put paid to the fact that DeSean is unlikely to have a very long NFL career. He may be tough and willing but his body may start to disagree sooner than the average.

But on the other side, that’s why he needs to get paid now. This could be his only chance to get a monster contract, because once DeSean starts to break down and he loses his speed and quickness, he’s done. No room in the NFL for a guy his size who can’t run away from a defense.

Then there’s the argument that he wants to be paid like a top receiver. DeSean will never be considered that “number 1” type, the tall, goto playmaker who can run and catch a ball in traffic at will. It’s an argument the Eagles are likely making, but they’re completely wrong. Players get paid based on production and value, and what DeSean brings to the field is absolutely elite. He may never go up and get a tough ball a la Larry Fitzgerald, but when was the last time Fitz clowned an entire secondary the way DeSean did to LaRon Landry and the Redskins? That’s not a knock, just contrasting two elite players who impact the game in different yet equally incredible ways.

DeSean doesn’t need to grab 100 balls and score 20 touchdowns to deserve to get paid like a top guy. He’s already a gamechanger, a force of football nature who cannot be covered in any scheme or by any corner one on one, not for an entire game.

But with the Eagles being historically obstinate and unbending with negotiations, it’s probably in DeSean’s best interests just to head to camp and go from there, relying on agent Drew Rosenhaus to make the best deal possible.. The Eagles would need to move fast because DeSean was admittedly distracted by the contract talk last season, and a year later with the stakes even higher there’s no way the team can allow this to drag on into the regular reason.

The Eagles have been spending money Madden-style on outside guys for the past week, it’s time they spent some more on their own.

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