Thursday, 4 a.m.
Before you get to the part where you wonder if the Bucs should want DeSean Jackson or not, before you can figure out whether Jackson would make Jameis Winston a better quarterback because he's a better receiver, first, you have to figure this out.
Does Jackson want the Bucs?
Oh, we know that Jackson wants cash. He's made no mistake about that. After that, you can assume he wants stardom, and love, and cheers. He wants admiration and respect and ackowledgement that he make the right decision. But mostly, he's going to want the money. His fight song is played on cash registers. Cha, and furthermore, ching.
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In free agency, you always have to worry first about what the player wants. It's one of the few times it's his choice.
If you want to believe the rumors, which is always dangous, Jackson is down to four teams on his list: The Bucs, the Cowboys, the Patriots and Eagles, where he used to play before being cut by Brian Kelly, who has since been cut by the NFL.
So let's break them down.
1. New England: With veteran players, the conversation always starts with the Patriots, who lead the world in victories and in quarterbacking. And it's true that the Patriots have had an interest in beefing up their receiving corps. Remember, they made a run at the Saints' Brandin Cooks. But for a successful team, the Patriots are careful with their spending, and they already have Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan.
The thoughts in New England is that the Pats simply won't go that high for Jackson, who would have to take less money to join Bill Belichick. If I was Jackson, it would be worth a thought. But maybe only a fleeting one.
2. Dallas: The Cowboys want a receiver to go on the other side of Dez Bryant, and they seem inclined to pay well for a second-banana receiver. But Jackson could be a perfect complement to Bryant. Jackson is sure to love the idea of a huddle with quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Zeke Elliot and tight end Jason Whitten.But will the Cowboys have enough cash to make everyone happen, even after they dump Tony Romo. We'll see.
3. Philadelphia Eagles: Once, Jackson was a star for the Eagles. That was before Kelly dumped him. And Jackson has admitted there is some lure to rejoining the Eagles.
"[Returning] definitely would be a great story or ending, I guess you could say," Jackson said of returning to Philly. "Starting your career somewhere, then going to a division rival team, having the possibility of maybe going back. You just kind of think about all of that when you start somewhere, maybe you could finish it. There is just a lot of speculation of a lot of thoughts. It all sounds good, but you really never know until the final decision is made."
The problems? With young quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles have the least accomplished quarterback of the bunch. And going home again isn't always the attraction it's thought to be.
No. 4. Tampa Bay: Jackson may be interested in playing with Winston, and the Bucs' may be willing to spend more money than anyone else.
Sure, there are those who wonder if the Bucs need Jackson or if they would be better served with a younger receiver. But Jackson's impact has been well tested. He would be an investment into Winston.
No. 5. The field. Jackson is 30, which is a little long in the tooth for a lot of teams. Someone else may get into the bidding late, but look for the Bucs to offer more front-loaded money in a contract.
Funny, but signing Jackson would erase a terrible mistake by the Bucs. In 2008, Tampa Bay had the 52nd overall pick in the second round. It could have had Jackson by moving up three slots. Instead, it moved backward six slots, and it took Dexter Jackson. As badly as the Bucs needed receivers, Dexter never caught a pass for Tampa Bay. DeSean became a star. Oops, as they say.
So why would the Bucs' be interested. Again, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is on record as saying he wants to add a speedy receiver. Winston has talked about how wonderful Jackson would be.
If it comes down to this, and it might, consider: The Bucs need Jackson worse than any team on the list.New England is still New England, and Dallas is very strong. But the Bucs desperately need what Jackson can offer.
Now keep this in mind: All of those who worry about how much Jackson would make? That's the owner's decision. If the Glazers don't spend the money, it's not like the fans get to divvy it up. The balance between Mike Evans and Jackson? That's a coach's decision.
Would he help? Would he make the team more dangerous?
Of course he would.
Isn't that enough?