Vincent Jackson came in to San Diego unrefined but brimming with potential; the Chargers drafted Jackson knowing that he could become something great, as long as both sides remained dedicated to his development. Hard-working and coachable, Vincent Jackson steadily improved and has now emerged to be the #1 wideout many hoped he would become. Wide receiver is a position that generally takes a few years to learn, and although Jackson has continued to progress, he now finds himself on the last year of his rookie contract. It's obviously something the Chargers front office is aware of, and one can assume they'd be working on a new contract offer for him. But will the team low-ball Jackson, especially considering some of his problems off the field? Or will they step up to the plate and secure the player who they have helped develop into one of the best young wide receivers in the league?
Drafted in 2005 by the San Diego Chargers, Vincent Jackson signed a 5-year, $3.495 million deal with the team. Jackson made significant strides in his game year after year, and posted career highs in 2008 with 1098 yards receiving on 59 catches. When you compare his career to say, Buster Davis, you might be shocked at the discrepancies; Davis was a first round draft pick in 2007 and will make 5.4 million dollars of guaranteed money. In two seasons, Davis has 24 catches for 247 yards. He hopes to bounce back and have a nice season for the Bolts in 2009, but as it stands he is buried on the depth chart behind Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson and has been disappointing thus far. Jackson, on the other hand, has shown marked improvement and is now a dominant player in the division.
Receiver is not an easy position to player in the NFL; indeed, no position is easy to play in the NFL, but for some reason wide receivers have an especially difficult time making the transition from the college game to the pro level. A young receiver like Vincent Jackson is somewhat of a rare player, and certainly the type of player you'd want to hold on to if you're a team like the Chargers. Jackson has improved to almost a Pro Bowl caliber level; excellent after the catch, tough in traffic, has shown the ability to make the spectacular catch, and an excellent and willing blocker. Not to mention he is a physical mismatch for almost every defensive back in the league. Jackson is the total package and the Chargers would be foolish not to resign him, right?
On the opposite side of that coin, Jackson has had a couple of unfortunate run-ins with the law, being arrested for DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) twice. With General Manager AJ Smith's zero-tolerance policy, he might consider Jackson too big of a risk to offer a significant contract to. The Chargers might try to low-ball Jackson, citing concerns about his ability to stay out of trouble. While Jackson hasn't been a guy who is violent and ill-tempered off the field, he has made some questionable choices when it comes to drinking and driving.
The Chargers are in a tough position when it comes to Vincent Jackson - on one hand Jackson has blossomed into a spectacular player who can stretch the field and make big-plays down the sideline. But on the other hand, he is also behind the count with two strikes. The Chargers also have to consider who they current have on the roster; an aging but talented Chris Chambers, an unproven Buster Davis, and a player still learning the position in Legedu Naanee. There is also Malcom Floyd, who flashes each year but never seems to be given a true opportunity and is playing on a one-year contract.
Vincent Jackson's contract status will be an interesting situation to monitor. Who has the leverage in the negotiations? Jackson with his somewhat checkered past? Or the Chargers with young receivers who are largely unproven?
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