EAGLES STORY ON FRANCHISE TAG
By DAVID WEINBERG
The Philadelphia Eagles now have an opportunity to keep wide receiver DeSean Jackson for at least one more season.
The NFL's designated period for placing franchise tags on players starts Monday and lasts until 4 p.m. on March 5. The Eagles are expected to use their tag on Jackson, who otherwise will become an unrestricted free agent on March 13.
If Jackson becomes their franchise player, he would be scheduled to make $9.4 million for the 2012 season under the formula created as part of the collective bargaining agreement that was established prior to last season. He made the league minimum of $600,000 during the 2011 season.
The Eagles would have several options to explore. They would have until late September to try to sign Jackson to a long-term contract, they could trade him during the draft or they could just let him play out the 2012 season and leave via free agency.
The Eagles, as well as other NFL teams, have to weigh his considerable talent as both a wide receiver and punt returner against his lack of maturity and questions about his durability.
When he is focused, Jackson is among the league's most dynamic players. But this season, he was deactivated against Arizona for missing a team meeting and was benched in the fourth quarter against New England after dropping several passes and short-arming at least two others.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has never missed more than one game in a season because of injuries, but has suffered two concussions.
The Eagles have used the franchise tag four other times since coach Andy Reid took over in 1999, but only tight end L.J. Smith (2008) played a full season under the agreement. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (2002) and defensive tackle Corey Simon (2005) refused to sign their franchise tenders. In both cases, the Eagles removed the franchise tag and the players left via free agency.
Quarterback Michael Vick was designated as the Eagles' franchise player a year ago, but signed a six-year, $100 million contract before the season began.