DeSean Jackson Wants to Play for the Rams, obviously, but what does it say about the Future of Football?

At this point, what player does not want to play for the Los Angeles Rams and compete on a lesser contract to win it all.

NBC Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson reveled that he would like to play for the Los Angeles Rams on The Simms and Lefkoe Podcast on Tuesday. It was suggested that Jackson could play for the San Francisco 49ers but his response was what we expect from a skill player at this point, “I don’t know about Frisco, man. State tax is crazy, man. That is home too though. I don’t know. … If anything, I would like to kind of end up in L.A., being a Ram. Sean McVay, you know, we got some connection from when I was in D.C., but we’ll see how it plays out, man. Right now, I got another year in Tampa. So we’ll see how it plays out, man.”

There is only one big barrier in Jackson’s way – he is under contract with the Buccaneers for the 2019-20 season. No team can contact him or else the magic word tampering comes ringing back into the news cycle. So Jackson is a sitting duck, free to speak his mind because his current team does not have to do anything. On the flip side, if Tampa Bay wants to move on from the 32-year old receiver, they can cut him without a scratch as his $10 million salary is not guaranteed. 

Nowadays, if you are an offensive skill player, you would get crazy looks if you said you would not want to play for the Rams. The now 33-year old head coach, Sean McVay, has caught the eye of everyone in the world of football. McVay has transformed the Rams from the stagnant Jeff Fisher offense into a juggernaut. In his two years with Los Angeles, McVay has won 75% of his games and has changed how many will approach modifying their offensive schemes. 

Instead of pivoting into how ‘McVay is a god’ and continue to talk about his offensive prowless for only being 33, we need to refocus on Jackson and how his comments are going to potentially change what happens in free agency the next few years.

This year, the Rams paid to make a push by signing Ndamukong Suh and acquiring players like Aquib Talib, Marcus Peters, Dante Fowler Jr. and receiver Brandin Cooks (who subsequently signed a 5-year, $81 million extension). When the new league year starts, this Rams team will have a net loss of $10 million on the payroll but the total signed players will go from 61 to 39. Largely due in part to the extensions to Aaron Donald and the aforementioned Cooks. Both players will receive nearly $10 million raise. 

With these extensions on the books, the Rams will look into restructuring certain contracts and will cut plays who have a decently proportional salary cap relief to dead cap ratio. Every team does it but this year, the Rams will have all of the space to do exactly what they did this year which has them in the Super Bowl on Sunday. 

With everyone jumping on the Sean McVay bandwagon, players are more likely than ever to now to pull the old NBA trick of the ‘vet taking less to win a ring.’ Think about it. Does Miami’s Cameron Wake, Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah, Minnesota’s Anthony Barr and Sheldon Richardson, Houston’s Kareem Jackson, or Seattle’s Earl Thomas decide to take a hit a 2019 salary to team up with the LA system? 

It makes complete sense.

Now some players like Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and the Texans edge rusher, Jadeveon Clowney will get big deals with massive guarantees but is this now the year where we see players start taking less to win it all? Does Dante Fowler Jr. resign for a discounted rate? Does Golden Tate say “I will go be the slot guy while Cooper Kupp continues to recover from his injury and then stay healthy for a deep playoff run?” Do Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne or K.J. Wright say screw it?

It is not a guarantee, but just the sheer thought of having top talent take less money on 1-year deals to try and win the big game could make its first wave this year with this crop of free agents.

Football players are not supposed to sacrifice millions or guaranteed dollars because of the nature of the sport. Players getting bigger and better deals should take such deals for the “betterment of the game.” I would argue that if you are an upper echelon player at your position, why wouldn’t you want to add “Super Bowl Champion” to your resume and make history remember you as a champion? We all think of Dan Marino as a great quarterback who never won the big one and to this day will get left off of the greatest to play at the position because of the lack of hardware. For players who are borderline Hall of Famers, it makes sense to take less and go try and win one. Usually this happens with football players at end of a career, hanging onto one of the last roster spots, if at all. Why not take your 31 year old body and make an impact for a year on a contending team to see if you can add to your legacy?

Players who have already finished their second NFL contract should take ad vantage of this, especially if they are considered a good/great player of this era. They will have made their money, and now a championship is the cherry on top for a great NFL career. Solid NFL players can say they won a Super Bowl and no one can take that away from them. They become a champion in their eyes and the eyes of the children and grand children. 

Where do players like DeSean Jackson fit in? Does something change when players currently on non-guaranteed or partial guaranteed deals want to jump ship? 

For openly disgruntled players like Jackson, it only helps if they ask for a release and are granted it. Jackson has the ultimate decision to make between $10 million in Tampa Bay or less than half that elsewhere like Los Angeles. Granted, other teams would be interested in the veteran receive should he hit the market. Does money now drive players to other teams because the Rams do not have as much cap flexibility? A team like the Oakland Raiders or the Jacksonville Jaguars would likely pony up more dollars than Los Angeles (if they are interested) and therefore start the havoc of a DeSean Jackson free agency cycle – or insert really good player’s name here. We would learn what is motivating a player and how the league may be on the edge of a bubble with more talented – for lack of a better phrase – super teams.

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