What are you waiting for AJ Smith? What is the holdup in giving Vincent Jackson a long term contract? Is there something you've seen or heard that everyone else missed? What are the concerns forcing you to make this decision in the 11th hour? Is it personal? Did he put shaving cream in your shoe or prank called you in the middle of the night? Please help me understand this madness because resigning V-Jax seems like a slam dunk for San Diego.
Here are some observations according to Captain Obvious:
Age: Most receivers start to decline as they creep into their mid thirties. Reggie Wayne and Chad Ocho Cinco were both 33 this past season and combined for 5 TDs. Plaxico and Houshmandzadeh were both 34 and combined for 758 receiving yards. Hines Ward (35) had 381 receiving yards and 2 TDs and Donald Driver (36) only had 37 receptions for 445 yards. What do these players have in common? They were all elite guys a few years back but are now prime examples of how each passing year in the NFL takes a toll on its players.
By the start of the 2012 season, Malcolm Floyd will be 31, Patrick Crayton will be 33 and Antonio Gates will be 32. Besides Jackson (who recently turned 29), the youngest receiver in San Diego is Vincent Brown who just turned 23 and is only entering his second season. Compared to his counter parts, Jackson isn't old at all and still has 2-3 years before there is concern about his age; however, if Jackson does walk then there will be serious questions about the durability and effectiveness of the players left for Rivers to throw to.
Durability: In the last two seasons Gates has only played in 23 games (70%) and has dealt with multiple injuries to his foot which seems to never get better. Floyd has only played in 23 games as well (70%) and Crayton only 21 games (65%). Charger fans have gotten use to cringing every time one of these guys takes a hit or hesitates to get up after a tackle.
Take out the 2010 season (Jackson was suspended for 3 games and held out for 10 games due to contract negotiations) he's started and played in every game since 2007 (Week 17 of the 2009 season doesn't count because all the starters were rested for their eventual playoff loss to the Jets). Bottom line, there isn't an option for Rivers more durable than V-Jax and that also includes Ryan Mathews.
Consistency: Jackson was drafted in 2005 and since then has had (3) 1000+ yard seasons, 2 Pro Bowl invitations and has only fumbled the ball once in his career and that was back in 2008. He was River's favorite target last year leading the team in looks (115 targets), receptions (60), yards (1106) and touchdowns (9).
Rivers threw a career high 582 attempts in 2011 which equates to 20% of them being thrown towards Jackson. If you're a person who follows trends, Rivers has increased his passing attempts every year since becoming the starter which means there's a high probability of him throwing the football even more in 2012.
Phillip Rivers Passing Attempts:
2006 – 460
2007 – 460
2008 – 478
2009 – 486
2010 – 541
2011 – 582
There's an established dynamic that Jackson and Rivers have developed since 2006 and it has been proven time and time again when you look at what they've achieved together on the field. It seems ludicrous to interfere or interrupt this bond and I can't imagine Rivers being happy seeing his most trusted weapon leave for another team.
Team Value: San Diego scored a total of 408 points in 2011 and as you can see below, Novak led the team with 30% of those points but next in line was Tolbert with 60 (15%) and Jackson with 54 (13%). The consensus around the league is that Tolbert will land with another team so losing Jackson too would mean a heavier reliance on Mathews and Gates to fill those voids. I question whether both can hold up for an entire season with that type of added pressure.
Novak – 122 points
Tolbert – 60 points
Jackson – 54 points
Gates – 42 points
Mathews – 36 points
Floyd – 30 points
Brown – 12 points
Crayton – 6 points
Market: There's speculation that San Diego won't franchise Mike Tolbert because $7.7M is too much for a back-up RB, so why not use the tag on Jackson at $9.4M? It's not an ideal situation and I'm sure Jackson won't be happy being tagged again, but can the Chargers really afford letting him hit the open market before negotiating a long term contract? If you look at the Top 5 Wide Receiver contracts for 2012 it doesn't seem like a bad deal in terms of production especially when you can see that V-Jax did better than Holmes and Rice overall and also had more TDs than Smith and Marshall last year.
Calvin Johnson - $14M (2011: 96 Rec., 1681 yds and 16 TDs)
Brandon Marshall - $9.3M (2011: 81 Rec., 1214 yds and 6 TDs)
Steve Smith - $7.75M (2011: 79 Rec., 1394 yds and 7 TDs)
Santonio Holmes - $7.75 (2011; 51 Rec., 654 yds and 8 TDs)
Sydney Rice - $7M (2011: 32 Rec., 484 yds and 2 TDs)
If San Diego isn't going to give the money to Jackson, who are they going to give it to? Let's imagine for a second they don't franchise Vincent and he walks, their options for a lateral fill-in are small. Welker is getting tagged by New England. Do they really want the problems that come along with DeSean Jackson? Reggie Wayne will be 34 and mostly tied to where ever Peyton lands. Colston is great when healthy…key word "healthy" and Dwayne Bowe is the lead candidate to be franchised in Kansas City. Who's left?
Like I said early, I don't see where AJ Smith is going to find equal or better value than Vincent Jackson so just make the deal already and let's get this charade over with. It's time to re-Charger Vincent Jackson!!