March 29, 2014 in Sports

Art Thiel: DeSean Jackson presents Carroll a dilemma

Art Thiel
 
Associated Press photo

This past season was wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s best in six pro years.
(Full-size photo)

Pete Carroll has developed a reputation, largely deserved, as a modern-day Father Flanagan,  providing at his Renton Hostel for Wayward Youth some shelter from the storm. But with the sudden availability Friday of one of the NFL’s premier talents, wide receiver DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia, Seahawks fans should keep three things in mind:

• No two players are alike in their troubles

• Aaron Hernandez

• The Seahawks throw the football the way a Marine drill instructor offers compliments: Grudgingly.

Then again, there is this tweet Jackson sent out March 21 that includes a photo from 2005 (showing Jackson and Carroll), presumably from the Jackson family living room in Long Beach, Calif.:

High school days !! Recruiting heavy was Coach Carroll !!

Came 2 Lb Recruit one of the best coming…

http://t.co/813sgaNmLq

– Desean Jackson (@DeseanJackson10) March 21, 2014

We know the bromide about one picture being worth a thousand words. And we know Carroll can deliver a thousand words faster than any coach in NFL history. But in the absence of any of those words to explain his personnel desires, we can only speculate from various clues about the likelihood of Jackson joining the Seahawks.

In a perfect football world, Carroll would love to team Jackson with returning wide receiver Percy Harvin to drive defensive coordinators street-rat crazy.

It’s not a perfect world.

And we haven’t even talked yet about the Seahawks room under the salary cap.

So let’s:

According to overthecap.com, only seven teams have more room under the cap than the Seahawks’ $15.2 million. But a lot of teams could come closer to matching Jackson’s $10 million salary that he just lost when the Eagles cut him Friday (he had $30 million and three years left on his contract, none guaranteed), because they don’t have as many big, future deals pending as do the Seahawks.

But the Seahawks did plan to spend some money to re-hire wide receiver Golden Tate, as well as sign free-agent defensive end Jared Allen, neither of which worked out. It’s not clear what the offers were, although reports said Tate was in line for a $5 million average annual value over multiple years and Allen was offered $12 million over two years.

So for the sake of discussion, let’s say the Seahawks could afford to pay Jackson, 27,  the average of what they offered Allen for one year, or Tate, 26, for multiple years: $5.5 million for 2014.

Not close to what he was making, but three weeks into free agency, many teams have spent most of their money, so Jackson inevitably will have lost ground in the marketplace, and might be down to a one-year, “prove it” deal.

All teams will be reluctant to offer him more than one year partly because of a story that broke Friday on href=”http://ift.tt/1fv8Kn7”>nj.com alleging associations with the Crips gang in Los Angeles. The story said Jackson had relationships with reputed gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010, although he was accused of no crimes.

The story was released about a half-hour before the Eagles announced they were cutting Jackson. For several weeks, rumors circulated about a potential trade, despite the fact that Jackson had the best of his six pro seasons with 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns for a 10-6 team that made the playoffs. The story’s sources claimed that the desire to get rid of him originally was because of bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with first-year head coach Chip Kelly.

But once the Eagles became aware of the gang allegations about to be published, Jackson was cut.

After the story came out Friday, Jackson issued a statement denying any gang affiliation. In part, it said:

“I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang.”

The Seahawks have “traded for trouble” before, acquiring running back Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo and Harvin from Minnesota after the players squabbled with coaches or had off-field issues. But the gang connection is scary for the NFL in the wake of the shocking arrest last year of Hernandez, the star tight end of the Patriots, on murder charges. Investigators believe he had gang connections.

The Jets, Chiefs and Raiders reportedly are interested in Jackson, but no pro coach has a longer history with him than Carroll, who lost the college recruiting battle to Cal, where Jackson teamed with Lynch. They share the same agent.

Now Carroll has a second chance at Jackson, a graduate of Long Beach Poly, a high school that sent four other players to the NFL through USC during Carroll’s time as Trojans coach.

Carroll knows Jackson’s background, the L.A. gang landscape and has Lynch’s endorsement as a coach, as well as a Super Bowl trophy. Carroll also has an expensive No. 1 receiver who will be the primary target for a team that throws less than any offense in the NFL.

Forced into near-dormancy by the salary cap during free agency, Carroll suddenly is upon the most provocative decision of his dramatic tenure in Seattle: After a good team and coach quit on a star player without compensation, can the Seahawks find room under the salary cap, on the roster, in the offense and the locker room for another wild-child game-breaker?

And you thought last season was compelling theater.


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