Fauber: Risk a wise one for ‘Skins
The Washington Redskins already had some young, talented offensive weapons surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin III before they went out and signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson earlier this week.
Wideout Pierre Garcon is coming off a breakout season in 2013 — his sixth year in the league — as he tallied career highs in receptions (113) and receiving yards (1,346). Tight end Jordan Reed (45 catches, 499 yards, three touchdowns) shined before a concussion in week 11 shut him down for the rest of his rookie season, and Alfred Morris — who has topped 1,200 rushing yards in each of his first two professional seasons — has quickly emerged as one of the better running backs in the NFL.
With the addition of Jackson, who had a career year (82 catches, 1,332 yards, nine touchdowns) with Philadelphia last season, the Redskins get another speedster and a big-time home run threat for RG3 to throw to.
The signing is one of the more notable offseason acquisitions so far in the NFL, and it has the potential to be a great one for a Washington team that will be looking to rebound from last season’s 3-13 debacle. But the Redskins are also taking a risk.
Following his release by the Eagles last week, a lot was made about Jackson’s off-the-field issues. He’s been referred to as the stereotypical locker room “diva,” and his often selfish attitude has drawn comparisons to guys like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. There were even the reports that he has gang ties, although there is a chance that Jackson’s gang affiliation was fabricated or vastly overblown.
The point is, Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly and the rest of the Eagles’ higher-ups let Jackson go for a reason — whether that reason was that they view Jackson as a bad egg or they simply didn’t want to shell out the money that keeping him would have commanded is still unclear.
Regardless, Jackson comes to a Redskins squad that had has its own off-field dramatics in recent years, mainly in the form of the odd RG3-Mike Shanahan soap opera that arose after Washington’s star quarterback blew out his knee in a playoff loss to Seattle in the 2012-13 season.
But Shanahan is long gone and new head coach Jay Gruden is in an interesting position. What can he do differently from his predecessor to maintain a healthy locker room while trying to rein in a guy like Jackson?
There is a strong chance that Gruden’s job may be relatively easy in that regard, however. Jackson has apparently hit it off quite well with Griffin and Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and maybe a fresh start with a new team is exactly what Jackson needs to shed some of the more controversial aspects of his football persona.
That would be good news for Redskins fans, who have to be a little weary about Washington’s latest big-name signing. The Redskins haven’t had the best of luck signing high-profile free agents during the Snyder era (see: Haynesworth, Albert), but the Redskins have actually played out the Jackson signing quite well, as his three-year contract is built perfectly to minimize the long-term damage if Redskins’ relationship with Jackson does go up in flames.
Jackson’s $24 million deal with the Redskins fits nicely in the window of opportunity that Washington has as it counts down the remaining three years on Griffin’s rookie contract. If the Jackson deal turns sour, he is out of Washington in time for the Redskins to pay RG3 the large amount of money he will certainly command in a few years. Until then, the Redskins have maximized the talent around their star quarterback, and just as importantly, have provided some early offseason optimism for a frustrated fan base.
Best-case scenario for the Redskins and their fans is that Jackson received a wake-up call when he was released from Philadelphia, he shines in Washington while helping lead the ‘Skins back to the playoffs, and he does so without any of the off-field mess.
Only time will tell how good this deal truly is for the Redskins, but I can see this as a risk that might actually work out well in Washington for once.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com