To DeSean Jackson or Not to Jackson? That is the Carolina Cat Chronicles Question

It’s been a rough offseason for Panther fans.  After a 12-4 finish, resulting in an NFC South Championship, fans’ excitement has been smothered by reality.  GM Dave Gettleman had warned that the Panthers were cap challenged and that righting the ship would not be easy or quick, the high of success caused fans to ignore the roster and contract difficulties facing Carolina.  Fans, however, felt the cooling shock of the first sobering dose when fan favorite, and thought to be untouchable franchise legend, Steve Smith fell victim to the business. Gettleman cut the lifetime Panther in the face of fan outrage without what appeared to be the slightest of remorse or emotion. Then fans saw Mike Mitchell sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ted Ginn, Jr. sign with the Arizona Cardinals, both instrumental in Carolina’s 2013 success.  

People had known it could happen. We should have known it probably would happen, but the drug of success had clouded our vision. The sobering continued as Captain Munnerlyn, a small guy hero to the a small guy franchise, inked a long-term deal in Minnesota. Fans were in such a state of desperation that they were clamoring for Gettleman to sign Brandon Lafell, longtime fan whipping boy, just to give the offense a semblance of stability.  The fact that fans were so disheartened by Lafell’s exit exemplifies their desperation.

It wasn’t just the shock of departures though.  Carolina fans itched for another taste of success.  They were chasing the dragon and quick fixes that probably wouldn’t have been enough to numb the pain anyway. Rumors circulated that Hakeem Nicks was interested in reestablishing himself as a top wideout in Carolina. Fans latched onto the idea of a big name and a big target that could inject vitality into the offense. The deal slipped through, and murmurs from Nicks’s camp suggested it wasn’t money, but his skepticism of the Panther organization that caused him to sign with Indianapolis.

James Jones became the next great hope fans thought could tame the itch. Carolina showed little interest in the former Packer, nevertheless, and Jones ended up signing with the Oakland Raiders.

By this point, fans had nearly scratched their forearms skinless. Gettleman saw the desperation and gave fans a taste of free agency methadone by signing veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery to a remarkably creative deal, which spread out what was clearly a 2 year contract over 5 years to lessen the cap hit. He has weaned us more by landing cornerback Antoine Cason to a one year deal. This was the type of signing that Gettleman magically orchestrated last season that so ingratiated him with Carolina fans.  A veteran guy with talent, on the cheap, that could step in immediately and fill a void.

The craving had been subdued, but the addiction was still there. The fan base found a moment of clarity, but was still susceptible to temptation. Well the pusher flashed the quality product and the allure of the high of excitement has fans in recovery contemplating jumping off the wagon.  

The rumor mill is bustling in Carolina as the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly contacted the Panthers to inquire about trading star wideout DeSean Jackson.  The story got legs when Jackson published a picture on Instagram of him with Cam Newton at the Pro Bowl.  Recently, Jackson has indicated a desire for a new deal with the Eagles.  They met his request by shopping him on the trade market for a reported 3rd round pick.  Many believe that if Philly can’t find a taker, they will consider cutting Jackson before the 2014 season.

Well Panther Nation is buzzing. This is the big name they have been clamoring.  Should the Panthers jump off the wagon and make a run for Jackson or should Carolina stay the course and seek to build the receiver corps through the draft?


STEADY AND ON THE WAGON (Ken’s Case Against)

Stay strong Panther fans.  Don’t give in to the temptation. The Philadelphia Eagles are asking for a third round pick while dumping a ten million dollar a year salary off their books. They are also reportedly ready to release him if they don't get a trade partner for him, putting him on the open market for all bidders.

I don't think it makes any sense nor does it fit David Gettleman's modus operandi to overpay for DeSean’s talent. In fact, he's just released Smitty, as we ALL know, who was due less than half Jackson's salary.

The demand is great for Jackson's services, but the salary bar is high as well. If he's released, he probably would command at least the $10.5 million salary, which he has been unwilling to negotiate down with the Eagles, and the organization wants him out.

Salary aside, there’s usually another reason an organization wants to get rid of any given player and it’s usually something to do with being trouble in the locker room, off the field, or both. In Smitty’s case, it was as much a matter of turning the page on the Panthers locker room and turning it over to the likes of Cam and Luke instead of keeping a veteran with 10 years more experience around. It could almost be “generational differences,” but this isn’t about Smitty.

Therein lies the rub: If Gettleman trades for him, the risk is defined to his current salary and whatever draft pick(s) given up for him - again, reportedly a third-rounder, BUT it would mean the Panthers would, in fact, have a lock on the playmaker and the wild uncertainty that existed at the WR position this time last week would have almost completely vanished. Don't forget Jerricho Cotchery signed earlier this week as well.

While Cotchery isn't really a game-breaker with great athletic ability, he'd likely be a steady chains-mover who also has a knack for finding the end zone. That, I attribute to his wile and veteran knowledge of the system he was in and his route-running ability. He did have a career high in TDs last season but that's not something I'm looking at him to realistically repeat in 2014.

As for Jackson, yes - he'd be that deep threat to take the top off the defense at any moment, but for his part he's not one of the league's bigger receivers and if Cam Newton has a flaw remaining in his game, it's his accuracy. He's no Dan Marino as a passer who could hit covered receivers in perfect stride amongst several defenders and would benefit greatly from a #1 target with a much larger catch radius.

That having been said, Jackson will be only 27 years old for the entire 2014 regular season, so he's got four or five years' worth of top-end performance left in him. The problem is he seems to get dinged-up a little every year and hasn't played a full 16-game season except for last year. Don't forget his production on the field. He has 3-1,000 yard seasons and two of 900+ so when he's playing, he's getting some yardage but he's never had a double-digit TD year.

He's also very undersized for the position at 5'10" and 175 lbs and not a very good run-blocker.

In the Panthers' offense, that's a big concern and certainly doesn’t fit the scheme very well.

Also, he'd be going to a team that runs the ball and I can certainly see complaints about "not enough targets" coming from him a la Brandon Marshall. Jackson's more than your average diva WR - he's pretty far up there.

Name a WR that is NOT a diva? Larry Fitzgerald. Greg Jennings. Andre Johnson. Wes Welker. Demariyus Thomas. There are plenty.

While I think Jackson could easily be productive on the field, I'm not crazy about giving up a third-round draft choice in the best and deepest NFL draft in over a decade to shell out over ten million dollars in valuable cap space to get him. If we’re talking about a 5th-rounder AND can make the math work, looking forward a couple of seasons, then I could probably stomach it. I just think the price is too high especially if he could be “had” without forking over ANY picks in the draft.

If we want a DeSean Jackson THAT bad, take the best WR available at #28 overall. This year, there should be a Kelvin Benjamin or even an Odell Beckham, Jr. there. Some mock drafts even have Marqise Lee available at #28, but with plenty of Pro Days left, there remains some shifting up and down the board to be seen.

An Opening-Day Kelvin Benjamin would probably be on par with Brandon LaFell’s top-end ability, and Benjamin will only get better with time and at 6’5” 235 lbs, if he can’t run-block against a corner he’s just a wussy boy. He should annihilate those guys blocking them on running plays and, in fact, has 60 pounds on DeSean Jackson. I point out Benjamin because he’s very likely to still be on the draft board at 28th overall.

I just don't think it's wise to ship a third-round pick to lock-in Jackson's expensive services in a draft that is so deep at the position. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see Gettleman double-dip and take a WR early and a second one in the middle to late rounds - again, depending on how their board looks - when it's quite possible to get him in the open market probably for a similar salary and save that third-round pick for a younger talented kid who will be playing for 5% of what DeSean Jackson would command and hamstring the franchise in coming years with the salary. That was Hurney’s downfall and one the Gettleman so far seems to be doing quite well to avoid.

OFF THE WAGON FOR A TASTE (Tony’s Case for De-Signing Jackson)

The temptation is too great.  Give into it, the product is lightning in a bottle.  Imagine the energy it would bring to Carolina. Jackson can straight ball!

The opposition has pointed to the cost, his diva status, and his lack of size. Ken’s right. He wouldn’t be cheap.  He wouldn’t be chaste. He wouldn’t be big, but he would be BIG TIME.  

This is not as bad as of deal as people may think.  Jackson isn’t a project.  He isn’t a guy that could take the top off defenses--he does!  If you look at his film, he doesn’t just beat defensive backs, he embarrasses them.  

The knocks against him first deal with money.  Jackson has been portrayed as a money hungry, self-centered diva, who is willing to throw stones in the glass house in order to land a big contract.  After a 12 day holdout in 2011, Jackson landed his “big deal” (5 yr 48m).  It was an ugly affair that Jackson has since expressed he regretted.  He’s gone as far as to advise other NFL players, Mike Wallace, Lashon McCoy, and Maurice Jones-Drew, to avoid becoming embroiled in such a dangerous game.

The deal wasn’t as big as most think.  Yes, Jackson is scheduled to make a whopping 12 million this year.  Surprising to most, Jackson has expressed his desire for a new contract in what appears to be a jackpot year.

If the Steve Smith affair has taught us anything, it’s that the NFL this is a business--one that can be downright cold at times.  Jackson has realized his deal isn’t as great as once thought.  Jackson reigned in a 15 million dollar signing bonus with his big deal.  This is the only guaranteed aspect of Jackson’s contract.  If the Eagles choose to cut him, that 10 million dollar base salary Jackson is due in 2014 would fly out the window.  The Eagles would owe Jackson 6 million towards his signing bonus, but they would also free up 6 million in cap space for the 2014 season.  The Eagles would essentially cut and run from the big dollars in the back end of Jackson’s deal.  This is why he wants a new deal.  He knows that the contract is only as good as the signing bonus!

So how expensive would he be?  He wouldn’t be cheap for sure. Gettleman and the Panthers could give him what he wants, and that is guaranteed money. If Carolina signed him to a deal similar to that he signed in 2011, the price would be hefty, but the payments might be manageable.  

Most importantly, he would be worth it.  Last season, Carolina only had 58 passing plays for more than 20 yards.  Jackson had 25 plays for more than 20 yards alone, and averaged 9th in the league with 19.9 yards per catch.  With 86 catches, Jackson amassed a stunning 1,392 yards and 9 TDs.  Carolina’s entire receiver core only had 1,928 and 15 TDs total last season.  Tight end Greg Olsen is the only guy that came remotely close to Jackson with 76 catches on the year.  To put this in perspective, Carolina’s so called electrifying player, Ted Ginn, Jr, had only 36 receptions for the season.  This stark contrast is why Carolina would benefit from making a move on Jackson.  This guy is electrifying and productive.  

Say no because he is a diva?  Say yes because he is a diva! Fans didn’t go berserk when Carolina parted ways with Steve Smith because of his profound production. Fans went berserk because Smith was the team’s emotional leader. Smith didn’t earn this title by being a choir boy.  It was his attitude, his mouthiness, his intensity that made Panther fans jump out of there seats week in and week out.  He was a diva.  He punched teammates in the face, mouthed off after plays big plays, and showboated for the press.  Fans loved every second of it too!   Whether it was claiming to have ruined Fred Smoot’s career or telling Talib to ICE UP SON, fans embraced this vibrant personality.  It was welcomed as long as the production was of showboat status.  

Jackson is a showboat.  Jackson is a diva.  He is also a big time playmaker that can bring an intensity to the field that fans haven’t seen offensively since Steve Smith was in his prime.  So Panther fans, tell Gettleman to throw the deep ball and go after the big play maker from Philadelphia.  This guy is the real deal and may be just what Carolina needs.  

Fans clamored for Hakeem Nicks because he was a guy that could help the Carolina offense.  Jackson is a guy that will define the offense.  He’s wouldn’t be just a #1 wideout.  He would instantly make create an explosiveness that Carolina lacked in 2013.  More importantly, Jackson would allow the Panthers to draft more effectively.  They could go bring in a rookie wideout that could become a #1, rather than have to be the #1 from day one.  

We can all admit that bringing in DeSean Jackson would improve the offense from the get go from a guy like Nicks, or at this point now Kenny Britt, or any rookie could!