The San Diego Chargers have said that they are unlikely to use their franchise tag on wide receiver Vincent Jackson by the Monday deadline, meaning that for the first rime in his career, Jackson will be an unrestricted free agent, provided the team does not slap him with a tender either. As of now, there has been no talk of that happening, so Jackson will be allowed to sign with whatever team offers him the most money and the best chance to win.
It would cost the Chargers $14 million in 2012 if they decide to go the franchise route, as they would have tagged him for the second consecutive season, driving up the price. That is why it is very unlikely that it will happen, although general manager A.J. Smith has said that Jackson is the only player who the Chargers are considering tagging this year. It is either Jackson or nobody, and it appears most likely that the team will not use the tag on any player this offseason.
That means that Jackson finally gets his wish. He can test the free agent market with no restrictions. That means that although a few wide receivers may be available over the next couple of weeks, many of the upper tier guys will or have already received the franchise tag, meaning Jackson will be the No. 1 target on every team’s wish list in need of a wide receiver.
Here is a look at the top 5 teams who could pursue Jackson, as well as who may be a best fit for the eighth year wide receiver out of Northern Colorado.
5. Denver Broncos – Demaryius Thomas is developing into a legitimate threat, and Eric Decker played well last season as well, although Tim Tebow really zeroed in on Thomas as the season progressed. I don’t really see Denver going after Jackson, considering they still have so many questions at quarterback, but they will have the cap space and Jackson may even consider giving the Broncos a home town discount. Then again…
4. Chicago Bears – If they ever plan on getting to the next level, they need to give Jay Cutler someone to throw the ball to on a steady basis. When he had Brandon Marshall, Cutler was close to a perennial Pro-Bowl player. The Bears are extremely thin at the receiver position, and have been for years. This would be a natural fit.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Jackson wouldn’t even have to move for this one. He has proven what he can do when a talented tight end is on the field, and moving Michael Crabtree to the No. 2 spot would benefit everyone. Alex Smith would have a great target, and Jackson would play for a winner.
2. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals may have more cap room than any team in the league this offseason. Andy Dalton is a young talent who could continue to get better, and A.J. Green is going to be an impact player for a long time. But adding Jackson would give the Bengals one of the best one-two tandems in the game, making them more of a threat to do more damage in the postseason.
1. Washington Redskins – This is the most obvious choice. The Redskins will have some cap room, and owner Daniel Snyder loves to spend on marquee free agents. The team has already said that they plan on making a splash this offseason through free agency, and the wide receiver position needs to be addressed. Throw in the fact that the ‘Skins plan on going after either Peyton Manning or Robert Griffin III, and this team is going all in for the upcoming season.
Next 5: other teams missing the cut for one reason or another – Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks.