Knowing that the team is woefully incomplete, especially at wide receiver, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Redskins are one of three teams sniffing around WR Vincent Jackson. Jackson, who is a free agent, is tied at the hip to a Chargers team that has been slow to pay him by his restricted designation: it is past the deadline to accept offers from around the league. Jackson can only sign his RFA tender with the Chargers or sign a long-term contract with the Chargers. Jackson, who wants a long-term deal, isn’t finding what he wants in San Diego, so he’s holding off on signing his tender — possibly into the season.
Strangely, the Chargers seem more willing to work with other teams at hammering out compensation than they are willing to work out a deal with Jackson. According to Schefter, the Chargers are still asking for a 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick to trade Jackson. They’re not going to get that, as a team could have signed Jackson to a deal prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, given up the same compensation, and they wouldn’t have to go through the Chargers. Jackson is probably worth more than a first round pick — he’s just 27, but the Chargers might need to drop their asking price to a first round pick (or equivelent value) just to find a trade partner.
When the Chargers drop the price tag on Jackson, I hope the Redskins get involved. He’s exactly what this team needs. But the Redskins need to lean toward creativity in coming up with a suitable trade package, rather than just loading up on picks to send over to San Diego in exchange for Jackson. It’s the team’s top two 2011 draft picks that are more important than any player on the team right now, and can’t be dealt as part of a Jackson trade.
Here’s how I would approach this: I would start my package for Jackson with a 2012 first round pick, which gives the Chargers the future value that they require in a trade, but doesn’t kill the flexibility the Redskins absolutely need in next year’s draft. Right now, the Redskins hold 2 picks in the first 130 and are unlikely to receive additional picks. The last thing the Redskins should be doing is forcing themselves into a single player in those rounds — those two rounds are the surest things of all the draft rounds, and so the price tag on a player like Jackson needs to be wary of this.
The Skins can try to leverage the fact that while they are receiving a top talent, they are also are solving a problem for the Chargers with Jackson’s contract issue, a fan base that is tiring of some off the field transgressions, and a looming 4 game suspension, and that there’s a limited amount of suitors for a guy who is under team control this year, and has that baggage.
There are two things I’ve heard about a potential deal that would send Jackson to the Redskins. The first, a news item, is that Jackson has been working out with Donovan McNabb at his camp in Arizona, which is probably the things that’s fueling these rumors: these guys know each other. Shanahan knows Jackson from his AFC West days. The Redskins are sniffing around receivers of all sorts, and this deal just makes a bunch of sense for them. This workout thing placing Jackson with the quarterback of the Redskins in the middle of the offseason is pretty benign, but because Jackson doesn’t have a contract to tamper with, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that this meeting could have been both intentional and a precursor to a transaction. It’s got no meaning to those who don’t like a good conspiracy, it’s actually just convienient.
That’s one thing. The other thing to keep in mind here is that San Diego plays a 30 front, meaning they will not be dabbling around one Albert Haynesworth. Seemingly, that would limit the players that they would be interested in to recent Redskins draft picks, including a swap that sends a 2012 pick and Carlos Rogers or LaRon Landry, or possibly someone like Chris Horton or HB Blades on the defensive end, where the Chargers need the help. You’d also like to offer the Chargers their pick of Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas in the deal, because they probably would not want to pay Santana Moss.
Those would be some creative trades, but Mike Shanahan has done better. You probably remember that Jay Cutler was the 11th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, after the Broncos entered that draft with two first round picks (one of which from the Redskins). You might not remember that the Broncos didn’t have to move the pick they received from the Redskins to move up. Instead, they finagled a trade up from their own late draft pick 29th in the John Abraham trade — even though they never traded, nor received John Abraham. The Broncos played the intermediary party in a three way trade, giving up a second and a third rounder to go up about 15 picks in that round, putting them in position to get a quarterback they coveted.
In this case, a three way trade would allow the Redskins to move Albert Haynesworth in a trade that nets Vincent Jackson. Although I wrote recently that Haynesworth wouldn’t be traded because its not in the interest of the Redskins to move him, that trade value is relative. If a team like Oakland or Seattle decides that they are better off with Haynesworth than a draft pick, they could opt to send that pick (or two) to San Diego in addition to a pick the Redskins throw in, in order to land Haynesworth in their 40 front. Haynesworth’s contract is a great incentive for those west coast teams to make that deal because the Redskins would be selling him at a major discount because of the timing: they are probably better off with Jackson than Haynesworth from a football standpoint, even though they are much better off with Albert than without him from the same perspective. So the Redskins sell a really good contract at a discount, a team that’s looking to get back to the postseason buys on him, and the Chargers receive multiple picks for a player they don’t want to throw a long term contract.
It’s that universal benefit principle that gives that rumor some legs, but the Redskins would have to find a suitor for Haynesworth, who is willing to grab a great contract, understanding that they need to accept the risk that Haynesworth comes in out of shape.
If the Redskins can pull Jackson from the Chargers, the effort put into making the trade would be well rewarded, but the team’s past deals for far lesser veterans makes it difficult to again meet a rival’s asking price for draft compensation. It’s unfortunate that the line needs to be drawn on a really good player like Jackson, but if the Chargers won’t work with the Redskins to send him outside of the conference, the Redskins can’t afford to make McNabb to Jackson any more than an offseason reality.