KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The sweepstakes for the NFL’s newest hot free-agent wide receiver commenced Friday when the Philadelphia Eagles released DeSean Jackson.
At least six teams, including the Chiefs, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, have reached out to Jackson’s agent, according to numerous reports.
Each suitor as a final destination has pros and cons, just like Jackson carries when considering the cloudy circumstances surrounding his release.
Still, it’s tough to argue against the Chiefs being an ideal destination for the three-time Pro Bowler.
Of course, the big concern for the Chiefs is the money. According to NFLPA records, the Chiefs currently have $4.5 million in cap space, a far cry from New York’s $28.6 million or Oakland’s $18.2 million.
But even with just $4.5 million, the Chiefs could get creative by restructuring current contracts or backloading a potential multi-year deal for Jackson. The latter scenario is captured by ArrowheadPride.com‘s Joel Thorman, who opines the best way to sign Jackson is to pattern the first year of a contract after Dwayne Bowe’s five-year, $56 million deal.
Ultimately, if the Chiefs want Jackson and Jackson wants Kansas City, the team can find a way to accommodate a deal.
Here are other reasons Jackson to the Chiefs more than makes sense.
It’s hard to ignore the Jets, where former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick now resides, as a good spot for Jackson.
However, the Chiefs can trump that by reuniting Jackson with a coaching staff he’s very familiar with.
Then-Eagles coach Andy Reid drafted Jackson in 2008. And the 27-year-old receiver knows other primaries with Eagle roots, namely offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and assistant head coach/wide receiver coach David Culley.
Moreover, Jackson specifically mentioned Reid in his farewell statement, indicating the bond, when thanking the Eagles organization and fans for his time in Philadelphia.
For his part, Reid was complimentary of Jackson during his media session at the recent NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the kid,” Reid told reporters when asked about his relationship with Jackson. “I did draft him. I had a great relationship with him, when his father passed away, that was a hard thing for him to go through at a young age. They were best friends. I’ve experienced life things with him, so I would tell you he was great for me when I was there.”
And there’s always this priceless interaction from 2009:
Should the Chiefs sign Jackson, there won’t be growing pains in Reid’s version of the West Coast offense.
For some of the dismay over the 2013 production from starting wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, the point of Reid’s offense sometimes ignored by many is the system isn’t designed for a single wide receiver.
Indeed, just three wide receivers achieved a 1,000-yard receiving season in Reid’s 14 seasons with the Eagles: Terrell Owens (2004), Kevin Curtis (2007) and Jackson, who did it in consecutive seasons (2000-10).
But that’s what makes Jackson unique. Despite being in a system designed to spread the ball around, Jackson proved to be a prolific producer.
Of Jackson’s three career 1,000-yard receiving campaigns, two came with Reid. Over the span of five seasons with Reid (2008-12), Jackson recorded 274 catches for 4,785 yard and 23 touchdowns.
Jackson, who enters his seventh season out of the University of California, sports a healthy 17.2 yards-per-catch career average.
Conversely, Bowe’s career average is 13.6 and Avery’s career average is 13.2.
Versatility on special teams
The Chiefs lost Pro Bowl punt returner Dexter McCluster and kick returner Quintin Demps to free agency.
Both players were primary reasons the Chiefs established an NFL single-season record for highest kickoff return average with 29.9 yards in 2013 (1,316 yards on 44 returns).
While running back Knile Davis, who contributed on kickoffs, returns and the Chiefs signed former Canadian Football League wide receiver Weston Dressler to compete on special teams, the return game appears to be a poke-and-hope solution with no defined roles.
Signing Jackson would not only solve an offense needing a spark in the receiving game, but also special teams.
He’s a proven threat to take it the distance on any given touch, as the New York Giants are well aware:
On his career, Jackson has 131 punt returns for 1,294 yards and an Eagles-record four touchdowns.
Now sit back and picture Jackson as a punt returner in special team coordinator Dave Toub’s system.
Without Jackson, the Chiefs were thought to likely use May’s NFL Draft to address the wide receiver position.
But the Chiefs can’t afford to miss in this year’s draft, especially knowing the team only has six total draft picks, including one in the top 86 slots.
A rookie wide receiver in the West Coast offense needs time to develop, not just to the speed of the NFL but also the scheme.
With Jackson, the Chiefs no longer have to make drafting a wide receiver a priority and can concentrate on other areas of need, such as the defensive secondary, offensive line or defensive line.
Keeping pace in the AFC West
The Denver Broncos nabbed a wide receiver the Chiefs were interested in, but potentially gaining Jackson would have everybody forgetting the loss of Emmanuel Sanders.
Obviously, the Broncos still have the ultimate equalizer in quarterback Peyton Manning.
But Jackson would give Kansas City the much-needed deep threat missing from last year’s roster. He’s an explosive and proven dynamic playmaker who can affect the outcome of a game on any given touch.
The Chiefs last year only had one of those on offense with All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles. Having Charles and Jackson would cause nightmares for defensive coordinators.
While Chiefs under general manager John Dorsey prefers to build the team through the draft, a free-agent opportunity in the form of Jackson doesn’t come around often.
Jackson is simply too good to not warrant serious consideration.