Even Brian Westbrook and Herm Edwards are shocked.

NFL Free Agency 2012: Is DeSean Jackson Returning To The Philadelphia Eagles?

Dec. 11, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

DeSean Jackson is arguably the biggest free agent on the market this offseason excluding the maelstrom surrounding Peyton Manning. The question everyone has: is the star wide receiver available? The answer is simple — no.

You heard me. DeSean Jackson will not be available through free agency in the 2012 offseason.

So does this mean he’s going to remain with the Philadelphia Eagles? This answer is also simple — no.

Here’s how this is going to work. The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t going to let such a highly valued commodity such as Jackson leave without getting his value back. There are A LOT of NFL teams out there who need a wide receiver who can get separation and beat coverages with blinding speed and agility. DeSean Jackson is an ideal fit for any number of teams and on his own has the talent to push teams past the barrier and get them to the playoffs – if he wants to.

So how can a team get DeSean Jackson?

First, they’ll need to be a team that Jackson will agree to play for. Let’s get one thing clear. The Philadelphia Eagles can hold Jackson with the franchise tag, but if he doesn’t want to play then he’s not going to play. This is why the Eagles are getting rid of him in the first place and why Jackson will have some influence on where he goes. If he says he won’t play for a certain team, he’s not going there.

Secondly they’ll need to have A LOT of cap room. The type of money that is going to be demanded by the highly talented and very young wideout will at the very least call for a contract in excess of $9 million a year as his minimum. The franchise tag number is likely to be around $9.5 million on current numbers although this is expected to rise given the number of free agent wide receivers are available this year.

Finally, the team that gets Jackson will need to make available at least a first and a third-round draft pick to give to the Eagles unless they have a player available who can help Philadelphia immediately. The draft picks would need to be for 2012 as Philadelphia coach Andy Reid is said to be on the hot seat and if he fails to deliver this season he will lose his job along with alot of those in management positions on the Eagles.

So who fits these criteria? The most obvious team is the New England Patriots. This year they have at least $20 million of cap room, multiple first round draft picks and, most importantly, Tom Brady to throw the ball. As free agency progresses, expect the Patriots to become the frontrunners for Jackson’s services. Forget the hype surrounding Randy Moss — DeSean Jackson is 26 years old and a far better acquisition.

No other team is as well placed as the Patriots in terms of meeting all criteria but other options include the San Francisco 49ers — Jackson may say no based on quarterback, Washington Redskins — Philadelphia may say no based on being in the same division — and the Cleveland Browns — Jackson may say no if the Browns don’t get Robert Griffin III.

Speaking of RG3, I did read one interesting piece of speculation this morning. How about this — the Eagles trade Jackson straight up to the St Louis Rams in exchange for the #2 overall pick and draft the former Baylor quarterback for themselves? Just a thought.

So here’s what you can expect – the Eagles will indeed place the franchise tag on DeSean Jackson but he won’t remain in Philadelphia for very long.

Will DeSean Jackson return to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012?

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Tags: Andy Reid DeSean Jackson Free Agency New England Patriots NFL NFL News Philadelphia Eagles Robert Griffin Iii

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