The way free agency works isn’t, erstwhile San Diego Chargers receiver, Vincent Jackson’s fault. The union screwed this up way back when because they let the owners write contracts that can be terminated at any time without the player’s consent and without paying the full value of the contract. The MLBPA thinks this is hilarious.
It’s also not his fault that 2010 is an uncapped year and that the 2011 season might not happen at all. Those are the two main reasons the Chargers didn’t want to give him a huge contract at the end of last season. Also because Jackson is suspended for the first three games of the season because of two DUI’s.
Actually, the team probably would have ignored that. But when Jackson turned down his $3.2 million tender offer back in June, the Chargers realized what they were doing and chopped the offer by $2.6 million.
But this isn’t an argument that Jackson isn’t as good as everyone else, either. He just happens to play for a team where he’s expendable and that has a GM who will handle this much more like Sonny Corleone than Michael Corleone.
Jackson’s agents are the same people who represent Darrelle Revis, who just signed his deal with the Jets after a holdout that lasted over a month.
In the mean time, the rumor is Jackson and his agents are asking for something in the neighborhood of $10 million per year. That’s Larry Fitzgerald money. That’s Andre Johnson money (at least what he’s worth, if not his actual salary). So here’s a quick statistical comparison between the three receivers:
Larry Fitzgerald (2009): 97 rec, 1,092 yds, 13 TD
Andre Johnson (2009): 101 rec, 1,569 yds, 9 TD
Brandon Marshall (2009, for fun): 101 rec, 1.120 yds, 10 TD
Vincent Jackson (2009): 68 rec, 1,167, 9 TD
You have to admit his numbers compare favorably, though not the reception numbers. For the Chargers, Jackson’s reception numbers show that he’s not their go-to guy; that would be Antonio Gates. Instead, Jackson is the deep threat, the guy running the long routes all the time. Hence the high yardage total while only having two-thirds of the receptions of the other elite guys.
Not being the number one target of the quarterback is reason enough to not pay a guy elite receiver money, but the Chargers also have Malcom Floyd, who is pretty much the same age, size and skill set as Vincent Jackson on the field. PLUS he’s managed to not get any DUI’s or anything else off it. The team also just traded for Patrick Crayton, who will fill the role of “guy who catches 35-45 balls and does absolutely nothing spectacular” nicely.
The Chargers have no need for Vincent Jackson and therefore no reason to pay him what he wants.
My biggest issue is that Jackson and his agents should have figured this out. Maybe they did know there was no way V.J. was getting elite money from the Chargers and chose to have him hold out the entire season, but it doesn’t make any sense.
Because of his three-game suspension (now six because the Chargers placed a roster exemption on him) and legal issues, there were already questions around the league about his character. But, as Brandon Marshall proved, you can be a nut job off the field if you dominate on it.
All Jackson had to do was sign his tender offer of over $3 million, have a huge 13-game season, and then he’d have all the proof he needed that he is an elite guy and should be paid like one. If not by San Diego, then definitely by some one else. He HAD to know the Chargers have a history of getting rid of iffy character guys (see: Cromartie, Antonio).
Now Jackson is looking at holding out this season and a labor stoppage in 2011. That means two seasons of inactivity…in his prime. Two seasons lost, two seasons of not getting paid. In 2012, Jackson will be 29 years old, and no team will sign a receiver to a five year deal at that age and have the intention of paying its entire value.
One more year and Jackson could have worked it all out. But now he’s staring at two years of inactivity plus the chance that this year’s hold out won’t count in his years toward being an unrestricted free agent, meaning he’d have to do this all over again next year or the year after. And now since the Chargers cut his tender offer, Jackson’s pro-rated salary for 13 games would be something along the lines of $400,000. He definitely can’t come back now, so there’s no choice but to hold out or get traded.
Oh, the trade fell through Sunday night. Damn.
Yeah, this guy is pretty much screwed. This has to be one of the most pathetically-handled free agency situations in recent history. Unless Jackson’s camp caves entirely, there is simply no way the Chargers are going to just let him walk to some other team for like a fourth-round pick. Not happening.
So the question is: how does this end well for Vincent Jackson?
While the offseason is always about money and getting paid, Jackson is the guy who is willing to bail on his team during the regular season. I’m sure there’s some sympathy for him in the locker room (every pro understands that this is the way it works for them these days), but come Monday night next week, to borrow from Les Miles, the Chargers and their damn fine football team are going to battle without Vincent Jackson.