THE EAGLES have a 2-week period beginning Monday to use their franchise tag, and general manager Howie Roseman offered no definitive answer as to whether the Eagles will use it to keep wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
"We'll keep that internal as we do all contract negotiations," Roseman said yesterday after serving as a guest panelist at Widener Law School. "We like to convey messages to our players and their representative before we do anything else."
However, Roseman spoke fondly of the 25-year-old Jackson, who is a free agent after a contract year that included a holdout, a benching and ongoing questions about how the lack of a long-term deal affected his performance.
Jackson's 961 receiving yards and 16.6 yards per catch were the fewest since his rookie season, and the Eagles even removed Jackson from the second half of a Nov. 27 loss to the Patriots. Yet he also has been one of the most explosive players in franchise history, and his speed has been used for big plays on offense and special teams throughout his 4-year tenure in Philadelphia.
"We feel very fortunate to have him as part of our team," Roseman said. "We all have a relationship with him. Anything other than that, like any player, we'll try to keep it between us."
But Roseman did share his thoughts on the franchise tag, which rewards a player with a 1-year deal at the average of the top five players at his position during the previous season. If the player signs with another team, the original franchise is compensated with two first-round picks - a steep price that makes it a rarity when another team signs the player.
In Jackson's case, the franchise tag would pay him a guaranteed salary of $9.4 million. That's a hefty payout for a player with Jackson's production last season, although it would at least ensure that Jackson remains an Eagle without making a long-term financial commitment.
Teams utilize different strategies with the franchise tag. In some cases, the tag is used with the expectation that the player accepts it. Sometimes, it's used to buy negotiating time to sign a long-term contract. In other instances, teams slap a franchise tag on a player and then shop him around the league for an enticing trade offer. Roseman said the tag is only used in a "special circumstance," and noted that each case is different. But his preference is to lock up players to long-term contracts - at the right price.
"I think you want to always keep your really good players under contract; that's the way it's always been - it's been draft and let's extend them and re-sign them, it just doesn't always happen that that's how it works," Roseman said. "Taking out specific situations, just generally speaking, you need two sides to make a deal. It's both a team side and a player's side and so some stuff like this happens, you see it all around the league. You see teams that are using these mechanisms to keep their players and also try to sign players to long-term deals."
It would seem that the Eagles have the advantage of leverage when negotiating with Jackson because of the talented group of wide receivers due to become free agents. Among the prospective available wideouts are the Marques Colston (Saints), Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs), Vincent Jackson (Chargers), Stevie Johnson (Bills) and Mario Manningham (Giants). Roseman did not tackle the idea that the Eagles have the leverage, adding that the list is reduced when considering age and injury history. Plus, other teams might use the franchise tag or re-sign their player.