Day one of free agency is in the books, and it was an interesting, if not groundbreaking day for Eagles fans. Let’s break down what we’ve learned so far.
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A rebirth of the old Eagles way? The team took the first day to negotiate extensions for two of its longest-tenured players, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole. It was a nice return to the days pre-2009 when the Eagles built mostly from within. It’s also an important precedent to set with the players. Basically since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were unceremoniously dumped, the front office and the players have had a relationship built on animosity and mistrust. Young players like DeSean Jackson have battled with the organization rather than sign mutually-beneficial long-term deals.
Jonathan Tamari has the money quote from Todd Herremans: “The Eagles have been known for a while as a team that doesn’t take care of their draft picks and pays everyone else’s as picks and players. I think they’re trying to change that stigma that they have.”
By showing that you can get more money by playing the good soldier and dealing with your contract issues behind the scenes, the Eagles made a big step toward repairing that relationship and establishing veteran role models for the less experienced players to look up to.
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Wide receivers are getting paid. Three of the best wide receivers on the market signed yesterday. Vincent Jackson went to Tampa Bay, getting 5 years, $55.55 million, with $26 million guaranteed. Marques Colston stayed with the Saints at the last minute, for 5 years, $40 million and $19 million guaranteed. Finally, Pierre Garçon stole 5 years, $42.5 million and $21.5 million guaranteed from the Redskins.
Seem of these numbers are artificially inflated in the final years, but DeSean Jackson and Drew Rosenhaus have to be looking at those guarantees and salivating.
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Free agency for the Eagles is 85% about linebacker. And nothing happened on that front yet. Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, and David Hawthorne are all still available, and until those dominos start falling we won’t be able to judge the Eagles front office one way or another.
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If I ever became an NFL general manager, I would have to remember one thing: don’t sign second-tier free agents on the first day. If you need to move fast on the biggest name out there, that’s fine. But don’t throw big money at guys who aren’t major difference-makers. That’s known as the Redskins’ strategy.
Photo from Getty.
DeSean Jackson is a smart, mature man. I know this because Jackson had little trouble learning the NFL routes and starting in his rookie year. I know this because he’s done stand-up work against bullying. I know this because of his pitch-perfect ironic delivery during his turn selling jerseys at Modell’s.
Moreover, I know Jackson is savvy and levelheaded because he has learned from the mistakes of wide receivers past and hasn’t gone to the media with his contract issues. Knowing that keeping his mouth shut can only help negotiations isn’t a difficult concept to understand, but carrying it out when he is in front of the media constantly requires tremendous discipline.
Yet despite all of this evidence, DeSean confounds his fans by continuing to commit absolutely bonehead mistakes on and off the field. There were his goal line celebrations, parts one, two, and three — that threatened to overwhelm the actual events. More recently, Jackson’ directed gay slurs at a rude caller during an appearance on the radio.
I’m not entirely sure how to reconcile these two persona, although I don’t think (as some do) that DeSean’s public character is simply an act. That’s silly and overwrought.
Rather, I think a more likely explanation is that Jackson is simply a 24 year-old kid who still has a hard time balancing and moderating his burgeoning stardom. When he commits the time and energy to doing something the right way, he manages to be a role model as a hard working athlete, an effective community service leader, and a responsible actor in his NFL business dealings.
Paradoxically, it is his quickness that often seems to get him into trouble. DeSean’s feet and tongue tend to run a little bit ahead of his brain, and his fans suffer an uneasy twinge each time he lets a moment get away from him. Hopefully Jackson will grow out of it while he still has that one-of-a-kind speed left to burn.
Photo from Getty.