DeSean Jackson signing with Redskins seems to have familiar fingerprints

The Post Sports Live crew discusses how DeSean Jackson could fit into the Redskins offense. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Mike Wise
Columnist April 2

Because no one perennially contends for the NFL Offseason Buzz Championship like Washington, a bit of be-careful-what-you-ask-for trivia:

Who was the last 27-year-old Pro Bowler coming off a career year whose team no longer wanted anything to do with him?

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

That’s right: Albert Haynesworth, whose $100 million deal signed with Washington in 2009 is widely believed to be the worst free-agent signing in league history.

So DeSean Jackson, come on down! You’re the next contestant on . . . The Price Doesn’t Matter.

Neither do the consequences, the baggage (Jackson’s character questions and Daniel Snyder’s free-agent history) or anything that would require deep thought and planning to build a Super Bowl contender.

What matters is Snyder wanted him.

He wanted him like he wanted Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Jeff George in 2000.

He wanted him like he wanted, yes, Donovan McNabb in 2010 and Robert Griffin III in 2012.

This is a boom-or-bust deal that will define Jay Gruden’s first year as coach, a high-risk, high-reward gambit that made clear two unalterable truths about how business is still done in Ashburn: with emotion and a checkbook.

Despite being adamantly against this deal, I hope all goes well for Jackson. Heaven knows Griffin needs help on offense. Jackson needs a new team to show the Eagles and their coach they did him wrong, that he’s not the angry malcontent ruining team chemistry that Chip Kelly has made him out to be.

And while a reported $24 million over three years, with $16 million guaranteed, does not sound like crazy money for a playmaking wide receiver coming off a season with 82 receptions and nine touchdowns, this has more than a whiff of this team’s free-agent past.

A former league executive, on condition of anonymity, said Washington bid against itself Tuesday night. Other teams, including the 49ers, had guarded interest, and none had made a single financial offer.

It’s great Griffin and the offense have a stretch-the-field threat such as Jackson. But isn’t the defense a bigger worry at the moment? Jim Haslett’s unspoken regret was that Mike Shanahan always worried about Kyle Shanahan’s offense when it came to free agency before his neglected defense. After the draft, it will be interesting to see whether the breakdown in money and positions has changed.

Let’s also be clear about this: Jackson is not Randy Moss coming to the Patriots or even Terrell Owens to the Cowboys, former Pro Bowl diva wide receivers who briefly found homes on contenders and playoff teams before they wore out their welcomes.

He’s coming to a 3-13 team with a first-year NFL coach and his mostly new staff. Jackson comes to a locker room void of strong leadership at the end of last season. London Fletcher is irreplaceable, but even his influence, especially among the young players, waned significantly his last season.

At the end, Brandon Meriweather was cutting it up with other defensive backs by their lockers, jokes, laughs — maybe the happiest 3-13 locker room in NFL annals.

Now that could have been more of an indictment on the end of the Shanahan era than some of the clowns who played for him.

Still, add to that locker room not just Jackson’s talent but his propensity for going ballistic when things are going bad, and you have potential for combustion.

Here’s hoping Ryan Clark realizes he wasn’t brought back just to bump helmets but also to police a few teammates that need all the mentoring they will humbly accept.

Jackson may be ready to change perception. He might be all that is advertised and more, streaking down the sideline for Snyder’s team instead of against it.

But let’s call this what it is: another high-priced gamble that a player’s talent outweighs his former employer’s questions with his character, another offseason in Washington when the owner saw something shiny in the toy-store window and, damn the consequences, went out and bought it.

This deal doesn’t jibe with anything Bruce Allen has done so far in free agency: re-signing veterans, going after lesser names with more reasonable price tags. He may have loved this deal. It may have been his idea, who knows? But if I were to bet who made the call and why, I’d still take Snyder 10 times out of 10.

Until there is absolute proof, the owner is still his team’s player personnel director. And given Snyder’s track record, DeSean Jackson is going to be fighting more than his own past to see to it that this works.

For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.

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