DeSean Jackson, one of the most potent deep-ball threats in the NFL, remains unemployed five days into his unexpected free agency. Does character trump talent in the post-Aaron Hernandez NFL?
Merely asking such a question marks one as a rube given the $10-billion-a-year business involved. But the delicate chemistry required in putting together the right mix of players surely factors into franchise bottom lines and standings. Character matters in a locker room full of characters. Bill Belichick thought as much in jettisoning Terry Glenn, the Pro Bowl Patriots receiver, during the 2001 season. Three Lombardi Trophies later, he doesn’t look back with regret. No doubt Chip Kelly had the team dynamic in mind when he cut his most talented player.
Jackson’s five days on the open market may reflect similar concerns from other NFL decision makers. But given Jackson’s elite skill-set–he boasts 21 touchdown receptions of 30-yards or more–he probably won’t remain a free agent for five more days.
Bad teams will take a chance on a bad guy. The Bills, Raiders, and Redskins constitute the active market for DeSean Jackson. Washington’s status as the frontrunners in the DeSean sweepstakes plays as ironic given that his flashing gang signs in the face of cornerback DeAngelo Hall on Monday Night Football offered the first inkling to nationwide audience that Jackson’s off-field interests ran as swiftly as he does in an unwholesome direction. The Kansas City Chiefs, run by a man with better insight into Jackson’s character than most, also have expressed interest.
“Talent? No question, it should be a bidding war,” an AFC team executive told Bleacher Report‘s Jason Cole. “He probably would be signed already if it was just on talent. But it’s not, and that should tell you something.”
Here’s the rub for any team that gambles on the beleaguered speedster. On Friday morning, DeSean Jackson made Michael Jackson money. By Friday afternoon, he shifted to Shar Jackson dollars. That might make most men appreciative of landing their next paycheck. But Jackson, who agent Drew Rosenhaus says owes him a million dollars and may have lost a quarter-million dollars in a recent robbery, isn’t like most men. When his next employer pays Alan Jackson numbers, he will soon, as has been his pattern, loudly demand Michael Jackson money. Whether or not he is a gangbanger, DeSean Jackson certainly has proven that he is a malcontent complainer, a monkey wrench thrown into the gears in an assembly-line sport suited for quiet cogs and not noisy one-man machines.
“Is he a gangbanger? No, I don’t think so,” that AFC executive source explained to Bleacher Report‘s Jason Cole. “Our belief is that he’s kind of a wannabe, at worst. He hangs out with bad guys because he thinks it’s cool, but he doesn’t really do bad things.”
Does DeSean Jackson think that hanging out with bad guys is so cool that he’s cool with losing tens of millions of dollars because of them? We’ll surely find this out sometime this season when his diminished pay doesn’t quite match up to his extraordinary play.