The last season or two, Vincent Jackson has not made many friends in San Diego, and he has increased the number of enemies. As fans, I think we make the mistake of taking these personnel situations too personally. Jackson's holdout last season seemed to instill in many fans' and analysts' minds that he had burned his bridge in San Diego. After becoming a problem on and off the field in San Diego, he decided to abandon his team in an effort to show that he deserved more money. "This spells the end of Vincent Jackson in San Diego," they said. I respectfully disagree.
If this past offseason has taught us anything, it is that the NFL is first and foremost a business, and a sport second. Both sides have made it very clear that "the love of the game" comes a very distant second to the "love of the wallet." With that being said, come with me after the jump to check out why I think Vincent Jackson can and will remain in San Diego.
It's not personal
As much as people like to make AJ Smith out to be a spiteful, arrogant General Manager, he is a businessman. Analysts said that AJ refused to give Jackson a big money contract because he was angry at Jackson for not taking the tender offer. On the contrary I feel that AJ did not give Jackson the contract because he had shown to have issues off the field that could potentially keep him from performing his best on the field for San Diego. It is also possible that AJ undervalued how good Jackson was, and was fairly sure that his QB could make any WR appear to be elite. While partially true, last season showed AJ how much better the offense was with VJax around.
Besides, I think VJax will take a look at what happened to Brandon Marshall and recognize that he has a great thing going here in San Diego. He could take more money and go to a team with less talent at QB, or ensure that he will have a productive career by taking a deal to say here in San Diego and catching passes from Mr. Rivers.
Return on Investment
It is hard to deny that Vincent Jackson has become one of the better WR's in the league. He has it all: size, speed, hands, athleticism, route running ability, and a great relationship with his QB. Having all of these things in a WR is a very coveted thing; just look at what Atlanta spent in an effort to find themselves an explosive WR by trading up to grab Julio Jones (more on that later).
In 2005, the San Diego Chargers drafted Vincent Jackson in the second round (pick 61) in the NFL draft. It took several years for him to get up to speed in the Chargers system and he finally broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2008, and repeated that in 2009. It took 4 years for Jackson to get up to speed in the Chargers system and to finally break out as one of the better WR's in the league. The team got 2 good seasons out of him before he decided to hold out for the majority of 2010. Spending 4 seasons training and growing a player to only get 2 productive seasons out of that player is not a successful business model. Signing Jackson to a longer term contract in SD would ensure that the team gets the best possible return on investment after having spent the time to grow and develop a high-potential draft pick into a highly coveted #1 WR.
Additionally, the Chargers drafted VJ before tall, athletic WR's were all the rage, and a guy with VJ's skills will most likely not be available in the second round. (Take a look at Jon Baldwin for example.)
Do it for Rivers
I think most of us here in San Diego feel that we have someone very special at QB. He has shown that he can take the team on his shoulders when some of his better players are injured and he will do everything in his power to win for San Diego. However, having a QB who has shown he will do that is no reason to MAKE him do that. We need to get number 17 as many weapons as we can get him, and he has shown to have a very good on field relationship with VJax. Keeping VJax in San Diego will go a long way towards ensuring that PR17 always has someone to throw to.
I hesitate to make this next point, but here it goes. For several seasons the #1 receiving target in San Diego has not even been a WR, it's been Antonio Gates. However, Gates has suffered from injuries the past few seasons and hasn't really been getting younger. The offense not only looks less explosive without Jackson, it looks even less explosive without Gates. Keeping Jackson around will ensure that Rivers will always have a legitimate #1 target even when Gates is injured...and one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL when they are both healthy.
Size: 6'5", 230 lbs
Speed: 4.46 sec (from combine)
Vertical: 39in (from combine)
These guys don't grow on trees people. He's shown he can beat the coverage deep, he can fight for the jump ball (and come down with it), he can run solid routes, he has great hands...what more do you want? Okay, less trouble off the field, well you can't always have your cake and eat it too. At times in the NFL you come a decision point where you must value risk and reward...the risk of signing VJ to a long term contract is lower than the risk of trying to find another WR like VJ in the draft. And the reward would be ensuring that one of the best QB's in the league continues to throw passes to one of the best WR's in the league for years to come. The risk is well worth the reward.
So there it is people, that's my case. Philip Rivers should want Jackson to stay in San Diego, Jackson should want to stay in San Diego, and the organization should want those two together for the next several seasons, let's get this lockout over with and make the deal happen.