One of the more interesting sagas of the offseason took some twists and turns over the last few weeks but has now finally reached its destination with DeSean Jackson‘s signing in Washington. The former Eagles wideout will have the opportunity to face the team that released him twice a season over the next three years, per the terms of his three year contract with the team.
It is a significant upgrade for Washington’s offense overall, but it doesn’t positively impact the fantasy value of all parties involved. While there is a lot left to be learned about Washington’s remaining offseason plans and how the team will adjust to Jay Gruden’s offensive philosophy in training camp, we can make some quick assessments on overall impact now and fill in the details later.
DeSean Jackson signs with Washington: Impact on Jackson
Relative to his 2013 season with Philadelphia, this has to be viewed as a downgrade. Jackson has an intriguing, play-making Quarterback in Robert Griffin III throwing him the ball, and Riley Cooper got a lot of attention from Nick Foles last season but Pierre Garcon likely represents greater competition for targets than did Cooper. With Jeremy Maclin in the picture for 2014 and Zach Ertz likely commanding more attention in the pass game, Philadelphia would have been a complex target battle to be sure but compared to 2013 this is a worse situation for Jackson.
Jackson caught an impressive 68.9% of his 119 targets (82 receptions) and continued to sit among the league’s best in terms of yards per reception with 16.2. His nine receiving touchdowns tied a career high. He caught 48.5% of his deep passes (over 20 yards) as well, for 553 yards – another tough feat to reproduce.
In short, he’ll be competing with an entrenched WR1 for Griffin’s attention rather than sharing targets with new man on the scene Riley Cooper. Don’t bank on another 82-1332-9 season from Jackson.
DeSean Jackson signs with Washington: Impact on Pierre Garcon
For the same reasons, this move doesn’t really help Garcon’s value. Yes, it will be nice to have another player on the field worthy of drawing significant attention from opposing defenses, but I think the move limits Garcon’s value last year as well. Last year he became one of very few players to make five receptions or more in every game of the season, and he was able to do so largely because he was the only guy worth throwing the ball too in many games.
Garcon was the second most targeted receiver last season with 174. He got there by drawing double digit targets in all but two games in 2013. Those numbers are due to take a significant dip with Jackson in town, and while volume isn’t everything the impact those looks had on his 2013 value cannot be overstated.
DeSean Jackson signs with Washington: Robert Griffin III
You won’t be shocked to know that this is being classified as a positive move. A huge one, really. Sure, we’ve said above that Jackson won’t necessarily be bringing his 1300 receiving yards with him to Washington, but he is a three time 1000 yard receiver with a career 17.2 YPR number. That coupled with Garcon – who again, should be easier to find if he faces less defensive scrutiny – and Jordan Reed who appears primed to break out after injury shut down an otherwise exciting rookie season.
Griffin’s struggles last year can be attributed to a host of different reasons, some of them that the QB will have to improve upon if he hopes to take the next step in his development, but some of them were external factors as well. Specifically, he didn’t have a lot of options in the pass game outside of Garcon. With the three big options and the addition of Andre Roberts that should no longer be an issue for the QB entering his third season.
Assuming camp goes well, and he is able to acclimate himself to a new offense, Griffin is poised for a big year. Bear in mind that RGIII finished his rookie campaign as the #5 overall fantasy QB and has had a full offseason to get healthy. The weapons open up lots of room on offense, giving him options as to where to pass the ball when in the pocket and on the run. They’ll also potentially leave defenses thin when protecting against the threat of Griffin running the ball.
Gruden is generally respected as a strong, balanced offensive coordinator but we should note that he was able to get a lot out of Andy Dalton and the Bengals pass game with arguably less all around talent (I’d take AJ Green over any of the receivers in Washington, of course). Cincinnati finished 12th in pass attempts, 8th in passing yards, and 3rd in passing touchdowns last season.
With the weapons at his disposal, the pass game in Washington has an opportunity to be great this year.
DeSean Jackson signs with Washington: Others
A better offense presumably means more scoring chances for Alfred Morris, and with Jackson taking the top off opposing defenses there should be more room to run. This is good news for the run game, but not massively so. Similarly, the move should leave room for TE Reed to work underneath. Like Garcon, Roberts finds himself with fewer projected opportunities than were expected when he signed as well, though he should make for an interesting weapon out of the slot.