OK, so the San Diego Chargers did exactly what everyone thought they would: They made wide receiver Vincent Jackson their franchise player on Tuesday, assuring he will play for them in the 2011 season, assuming there is a season.
Just one question: Why?
Jackson is a gifted receiver; he has the numbers to prove it. But if he sits out part of next season as he did in 2010, you’ve got to wonder why the Chargers would put themselves through more aggravation.
“Vincent has been a valuable contributor to our team,” general manager A.J. Smith said in a statement issued by the team. “We want him to be a Charger.”
That might be the case, but the organization is reluctant to offer Jackson a long-term deal, perhaps because of two DUI arrests he’s accumulated since 2006. Last year, he asked for a contract totaling $50 million over five years, with $30 million of it guaranteed, but the Chargers balked and he sat out most of the season.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jackson, 28, expected the team to tag him this offseason but has indicated he will play under its terms if such a designation exists under a new collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, that’s still to be decided. Will there be franchise tags? Transition players? The league is still operating under the assumption there will be, and until the CBA runs out on March 3, they continue to exist. But the NFL Players Association rightfully believes nothing is guaranteed once the current agreement runs out.
If a new CBA includes a franchise tag, Jackson will be paid the average of the top five salaries at his position, which is likely to be more than $10 million. The Chargers placed a “non-exclusive” tag on him, meaning he can still negotiate with other teams. But those teams would have to work out a deal with the Chargers first.
Last season, Jackson didn’t sign a deal until Oct. 30 and played in just four games, reducing his salary to a little more than $280,000. He caught 14 passes for 248 yards and had a big game against the San Francisco 49ers on national TV, totaling 112 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
The Chargers went 3-1 with Jackson in the lineup but were 6-6 without him and didn’t make the playoffs. Would he have made a difference if he were available to them all season? We’ll never know, but there’s a good chance his absence hurt their chances.
Will it happen again? The Chargers clearly are crossing their fingers it won’t.