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Jets should take all of DeSean Jackson's baggage into account

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson celebrates his

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson celebrates his touchdown during the first half of a game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. Credit: AP / Nick Wass

ORLANDO, Fla. - There is no debating the fact that DeSean Jackson is a supremely talented wide receiver with a rare blend of speed and elusiveness.

There is no question that any offense would benefit at some level from his presence, forcing opposing defensive coordinators to pay special attention to him whenever he's on the field.

But to look at Jackson simply in the vacuum of what he does on the field is to ignore the complete picture of a receiver who brings with him significant risks. The kind of risks the Jets are now seriously considering amid reports the Eagles are prepared to move on without their talented 27-year-old receiver.

Jackson can be petulant when the ball isn't coming his way -- OK, not the first receiver to act that way, but still a potential cause for concern. He has been flagged for a handful of taunting penalties over the years, inciting the emotions of opposing players in a way that his coaches, Andy Reid and Chip Kelly, have not appreciated. And his occasionally moody demeanor in the locker room has been duly noted by some of his Eagles teammates.

Jackson complained after the 2013 season, in which he had a career-high 1,332 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns, that he wanted a new contract. This comes less than two years after signing a five-year, $47 million contract that including a whopping $10.25 million base salary in 2014.

In a game last season against the Vikings, Jackson got into a sideline altercation with wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell after a play on which Nick Foles threw an interception on a route run by Jackson, who apparently went the wrong way.

The fact that Jackson is coming off a career year and that the Eagles are desperately trying to move him should at least signify a red flag to any team. Ask yourself: If Jackson was that essential to the Eagles' success last year, when they won the NFC East in Kelly's first season as coach, then why would they want to part ways with him? Especially if you're the Jets, who had a similar experience with another smallish wide receiver. More on that in a minute.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman met with reporters on Monday at the NFL owners meetings and mostly sidestepped questions about Jackson's standing with the team, another indication of the Eagles' uncertainty surrounding one of their most talented players.

"I've always been open and willing to talk to [the media] and our fans if it's appropriate. Other than speculation I'm happy to do that," Roseman said. "Obviously, the only thing we care about is winning. We want to win and we are fortunate that we have an owner that gives us the resources to do it. I think if you even look where we are in terms of team spending this offseason, it's high. We're going to be aggressive and do whatever it takes. For us, it's about building the team. We're just starting. This is our first year in this program."

Roseman didn't comment directly when pressed about Jackson's situation.

"He's still under contract," Roseman said. "For us, until there's anything to report on our players, that's where we are right now."

Jets owner Woody Johnson acknowledged Sunday that the Jets were keeping tabs on Jackson, although he hinted strongly that the team would most likely be unwilling to trade draft picks for him, choosing instead to sign him as a free agent -- if they were to sign him at all.

Johnson was faced with a remarkably similar situation before the 2010 season, when the Steelers let it be known that another exceptional receiver was available on the trade market. Santonio Holmes, at age 26, also was coming off his most productive season with 1,242 receiving yards in 2009. Holmes already had a Super Bowl MVP award on his resume, courtesy of his transcendent performance against the Cardinals in the 2008 season title game. Holmes also came with plenty of baggage, too, including a reputation for locker-room petulance and a looming four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

The Jets traded for Holmes, who helped the team get to the 2010 AFC Championship Game and then signed a five-year, $50 million contract shortly before the 2011 season. He was solid that year, with eight touchdown receptions, although he had only 654 receiving yards. But Holmes also proved to be a locker room distraction that year when Rex Ryan made what he admitted was a mistake by naming Holmes a team captain.

A year later, he suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 4, and he played only 11 games in 2013. The Jets released him shortly before the start of free agency this year.

The Jets now appear interested in bringing in another receiver who can potentially open up their anemic offense. It sounds as if newly signed quarterback Michael Vick is in favor of a move, but Vick is only signed for a year.

If the Jets trade for Jackson, they inherit a contract that he has already said isn't worth his market value. And if Jackson is released and becomes a free agent, then how much money would he demand on a new contract? Do the Jets really want to go down that road? After all, no matter how much they give Jackson, he may want to redo the deal shortly, as was the case in Philadelphia.

Put it all together, and the Jets have a major decision to make on a boom-or-bust receiver. We'll offer two words of advice as they ponder their next move: Buyer beware.

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