Chargers Not Likely to Let Jackson Leave

WR Vincent Jackson (Donald Miralle/Getty)

The Chargers love Vincent Jackson - for what he does on the field. Jackson loves the Chargers - if they compensate him in the manner he feels he deserves. That said, can these two parties - after such an acrimonious 2010 - find common ground.

Few things are certain as the Chargers and the rest of the league dip their toes into the uncertainty of an offseason possibly without a labor contract.

What is solved - or not - in negotiations will go a long way in determining how the Chargers remold a club that didn't even make the playoffs last year.

Or better put, a franchise which has but one - one! - playoff win in three years.

Despite the cloud of the CBA, it's believed the Chargers still value Jackson enough to put their franchise tag on their talented game-changer.

Now, will there be a franchise tag in the new labor agreement? Will the rules stay the same, with those designated as the franchise player earning the average of the top five players at his position?

Tough to say, but the Chargers will likely let the negotiators figure that out. What figures, is the Chargers not letting Jackson slip away.

Many said the Chargers let a golden opportunity slip through their mitts last year with all the drama surrounding Jackson. There's little doubt he's among the NFL's top deep threats, and combined with the accuracy of quarterback Philip Rivers, a gem of a weapon for the Chargers.

But Jackson was ticked he was tendered - thanks to a loophole in an uncapped year - at about $3 million last season. Jackson, a Pro Bowler, was looking for a roughly $50 million, long-term deal.

His production shows he deserved it. But his off-the-field issues showed why the Chargers were reluctant to bestow him with such a rich contract: two driving under the influence charges and being ticketed for driving without a license on the morning of the Chargers' season-ending playoff loss to the Jets a year ago.

So Jackson balked at playing for the Chargers' rate, expecting to be rewarded with a lengthy pact. When that didn't happen, Jackson threatened to sit out the entire 2010 season, although he relented and played the last six games to ensure he collected a year of service.

Jackson got his year; now it appears he'll get close to $10 million on a one-year, franchise-tag contract.

From 2007-09, Jackson led the Chargers with 2,888 receiving yards. His acrobatic catches downfield for the Chargers helped lift the team's passing game to among the tops in the league and helped make Rivers - although minus a Super Bowl win - an elite quarterback.

But with Jackson's splash came a wake. Because of his run-ins with the law, Jackson was suspended the first three games last year by the NFL for violating its personal conduct code.

But Jackson, 28, hasn't had any other eyebrow-raising issues since that morning of the Jets game. It's imperative Jackson stays on his best behavior because if he's called into NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's office again, a longer suspension would likely be the punishment.

That is among the reasons the Chargers are hesitant to give Jackson a long-term deal. Or at least the reason they use as a bargaining chip whenever discussing their options with Jackson.

But know this about Jackson: he is not a diva along the lines of the NFL's divas doubling as wide receivers. Jackson is extremely popular in the Chargers' locker room, is considered a good teammate and never deviates from a work ethic that is impressive.

When he finally started playing down the stretch last season, Rivers said, "It looks like he's been here all year."

If he had, the Chargers might not have squandered a year in which a run at a fifth straight AFC West title was there for the taking.

Jackson, playing in four games, finished with but 14 catches for three touchdowns (all in one game) and 248 yards.

Jackson could be around all of next season in a Chargers uniform. But first the Chargers must offer the franchise tag and the fresh CBA has to include the stipulation that there is a franchise tag.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES


Qualcomm Stadium
AP
--Despite the momentum people in Los Angeles are showing for building a NFL stadium downtown, Chargers president Dean Spanos insists he is committed to finding a solution to keep the Chargers in San Diego. The Chargers' downtown dreams of a venue in San Diego could take a significant hit if Gov. Jerry Brown raids the city's redevelopment funds to help solve the state's budget woes. "We want to keep our teams where they are," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a Super Bowl press conference in Dallas.

"The Chargers have been committed to getting a solution for their stadium in San Diego for I believe well over eight years now," Goodell said. "They've been working on different alternatives. They've spent an extraordinary amount of time and resources to try to develop those solutions and they still continue to this day to do that.

"(The Spanos family) wants the Chargers to be in San Diego. And so does the NFL. But we need to find a solution to the stadium issue in San Diego."

--QB Philip Rivers threw for two touchdowns in the AFC's loss to the NFC in the recent Pro Bowl. It was Rivers' third Pro Bowl selection but the first time he played because of family and injury issues.

"You get a lot more free time than I thought you would have, but it's good just to be around the guys and interact with everyone," Shaun Phillips said.

--GM A.J. Smith appreciated the opportunity of watching players in the Senior Bowl and its practices. "Most of the top players in the country are in that particular game, so it's very intriguing," he said. "We go down there and we pretty much know who they are before we get there, but it gives you a chance to see them up front, up close, and going against some other people. So we think it's very, very beneficial."

--WR Malcom Floyd is among the team's 28 free agents this offseason and isn't sure what to expect. "The business side of this game is ugly," he said. "I hate it, but it's something all players have to deal with. I've been here for seven years, and the Chargers are like my family. I think the front office knows how I feel about playing here. I would love to stay, but you never know what's going to happen."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to prepare two plans while we wait for the labor situation to get resolved so that we can take action immediately. We will be totally prepared when we get back from the meeting." - GM A.J. Smith on the team being ready for a new CBA - or not - in its organization meetings at Chargers Park.

OFFSEASON STRATEGY


FS Eric Weddle
Doug Pensinger/Getty
It's believed wide receiver Vincent Jackson would receive the team's lone franchise tag assignment - if there is one.

But Jackson isn't the only one on the Chargers' free-agent plate.

While he is the most important, the NFL's top defense - in yards allowed - has key players up for new deals in free safety Eric Weddle and inside linebacker Kevin Burnett.

The offense, which also finished tops in most yards collected, has to consider new deals for right tackle Jeromey Clary and wide receiver Malcom Floyd.

Those four players, and Jackson, appear to be those the team will target in trying to rebound from an extremely disappointing season.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Outside linebacker: The Chargers had that top defense but there weren't many difference-makers on the unit - hence, few turnovers. If the Chargers don't think Larry English can provide a boost off the edge - he's yet to do so in two years - the Chargers might look for another pass rusher.

2. Defensive end: The Chargers' starting pair, Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire, are decent. But is that good enough? The Chargers don't think so and could be looking to upgrade here. There are also depth concerns here; look for the Chargers to beef up this spot.

3. Inside linebacker: Two key players are free agents here, Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett, and it's not clear if both - or either - will be brought back. Cooper could be showing the wear and tear; Burnett might ask for too much cash.

4. Right tackle: Jeromey Clary has been a whipping post of sorts for Chargers fans, as they see every one of his errors but don't notice when he plays well. Clary is a free agent, but figures not to be too high priced. But if so, and the Chargers can upgrade, they could look in another direction.

MEDICAL WATCH: TE Antonio Gates is letting his injured foot absorb as much rest as possible. It's believed Gates won't require surgery.

--WR Patrick Crayton is rebounding from wrist surgery and should be good to go for offseason workouts - if they have them.

--RB Mike Tolbert suffered a neck sprain down the stretch but should be fine.

--ILB Stephen Cooper had a sprained knee for the most of the season. Offseason surgery could be an option.

--WR Buster Davis has rehabbed and should be fine from a rib injury. Whether the team wants this disappointing first-round pick or not remains to be seen.

--LS David Binn has bounced back from his hamstring injury and wants to return for another season.

--ILB Donald Butler spent the entire season on IR with an Achilles injury but it is expected he will be fine for 2011.

--OLB Jyles Tucker's torn pectoral muscle has healed and he's a go for 2011.



Should the Chargers re-sign Vincent Jackson? Discuss in the message boards.




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