Adding DeSean Jackson to an offense with Robert Griffin III should make the Washington Redskins fun to watch again.
Adding Jackson to a locker room culture undergoing yet another overhaul could be the greater challenge.
Washington made its biggest move yet of the 2014 offseason Wednesday when Jackson returned to Redskins Park to sign his contract after two days of visits and negotiations, highlighted by a recruiting-style evening out with cornerback DeAngelo Hall, receiver Pierre Garcon and rapper Wale.
Jackson will get $16 million guaranteed in the three-year, $24 million deal, according to a person familiar with the terms who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Redskins did not publicly disclose the financial details.
The Redskins are getting a three-time Pro Bowl receiver with speed, someone who singlehandedly can change a defense's approach. He set career highs with 82 catches for 1,332 yards last year for the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles. And Jackson, who led the NFL in punt return average in 2009, can give a badly needed boost to Washington's special teams, although his production in the return game has waned over the last three years.
ITS GOIN DOWN !! BURGUNDY & GOLD http://t.co/tPN4g6AbeS
— Desean Jackson (@DeseanJackson10) April 2, 2014
The Redskins are also getting a player not afraid to speak his mind and who isn't shy about his talents. He had a history of off-the-field issues in his six seasons with the Eagles. Among the lowlights: In 2011, he was deactivated for a game for being late for a team meeting and dropped more passes than usual, part of a season-long spillover from his unfulfilled desire for a new contract that led to an 11-day training camp holdout.
Last year, in Chip Kelly's first season as the Eagles' coach, Jackson fumed at members of the coaching staff on the sideline during a game and had to be restrained by two teammates, upset because he didn't get the ball when he was wide open. After the season was over, he lobbied for yet another new contract - just two years after getting a five-year, $48.2 million deal that included a $10 million signing bonus.
The Eagles decided enough was enough and tried unsuccessfully to trade Jackson. They released him last week, and Jackson on the same day issued a statement aimed at quashing another off-the-field report, denying any involvement in gang activity near his hometown in Southern California.
The Redskins are coming off a 3-13 season overwhelmed by bad chemistry between coach Mike Shanahan and franchise player Griffin. Shanahan was fired and replaced by Jay Gruden, who will be trying to set a new tone in the locker room.
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) April 2, 2014
The Redskins have weighed the risk-reward of talent-with-baggage before, with mixed results. Hall was known as much for his temperament as his talent when he arrived midseason in 2008, but he's emerged as a team leader, made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and was re-signed last month.
But there was also Albert Haynesworth, who signed a massive contract in 2009 and gave the team one off-the-field headache after another over two seasons.
The Redskins are losing one of their veteran leaders, linebacker London Fletcher, who has announced plans to retire. Fletcher's replacement, leadership-wise, might be safety Ryan Clark, who agreed to terms earlier this week and signed his deal Wednesday. The 34-year-old Clark returns to Washington after eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Jackson fits in, he'll join an offense that includes skill players Griffin, Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris - a formidable lineup if the line holds up.
The Redskins had been relatively cautious this offseason with general manager Bruce Allen in charge of the roster for the first time. Their biggest move previously had been at the expense of another NFC East rival, signing defensive lineman Jason Hatcher as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys.