TAMPA, Fla. -- ESPN National NFL Insider Josina Anderson reported Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a possible destination for free agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson due to his rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston.
I'm told #Bucs could be a posb destination for impending FA WR Desean Jackson. Understanding is Jameis Winston has an existing rapport w/ DJ
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 21, 2017
The Bucs are searching for a big-play threat to line up opposite Mike Evans, who was targeted a whopping 171 times in 2016. They also need a replacement for Vincent Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve after Week 5 and whose contract with the Bucs expires in March. At 34 and with a noticeable decline in play last season, the team is best-served moving forward without him.
DeSean Jackson has a different skill set than Vincent Jackson. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he doesn't have the massive catch radius or a big body that you want catching passes across the middle. But this actually works in the Bucs' favor because they've long needed a receiver with top-level speed who can complement Evans rather than match him, and DeSean Jackson fits the bill.
When the NFL released its "Next Gen Stats" for 2016, Jackson registered the third-fastest overall speed and fastest reception time -- 22.6 mph on a 59-yard pass from Kirk Cousins. The only player faster than Jackson last season was Tyreek Hill, and those times came on a pair of special teams plays.
Jackson recently joined ESPN's Adam Schefter on his "Know them from Adam" podcast and when discussing his speed, he said, "I really feel like I could still run 4.3 or 4.29 like I came out of the combine."
Jackson saw action in 15 games last season and caught 56 passes for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns. It was the fifth 1,000-yard season in his career. He told Schefter he thinks he could play another four-to-six years and that he would have no qualms about playing in the slot if his speed dropped off.
"I still think I could play on the outside at least another three or four years and still play at a high level," Jackson said. "I'm not losing speed. I just turned 30. I played last year at 29 the whole season and turned 30 at the end of the year."
When discussing criteria for a possible destination he said, "I want to win. Obviously, I haven't won a Super Bowl, so the team that can win, a team that has a great quarterback. And that's definitely what stands out to me."
Winston, like Cousins, is a quarterback on the rise. His growth and chemistry with Evans blossomed last season, culminating into a Pro Bowl invite for Evans. However, one area Winston could stand to improve on is the deep ball accuracy. Who better than Jackson to help?
With a solid offensive line and ground game like they had in 2015 combined with a defense that made a quantum leap last year, the Bucs look poised to become a playoff contender. A tougher schedule next year, which includes facing the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers, will pose a huge challenge, however. That could certainly entice someone like Jackson.
The Bucs finished 9-7 in 2016 but didn't reach the playoffs. They did, however, win three out of four games against the Super Bowl LI participant Atlanta Falcons over the past three years. The NFC South is a division with no clear-cut favorite, as the Carolina Panthers reaching the Super Bowl in 2015 and finishing dead last this past year, while the Bucs finished second in 2016 and last in 2015.
How much would it cost to land Jackson's services?
His last contract with the Redskins was for three years and $24 million. The fact that he might not be asking for a five-year deal and would be okay with three years is a plus, given his age and the Bucs' recent track record with free agent mega-deals. This has made them far more responsible spenders. They'll look to re-sign their own as well, but none of those deals should break the bank, making room for a couple splash signings.
The Bucs will have about $65-67 million in cap space this year, while the Redskins will have about $61 million, although the Redskins still have to make a decision on whether to re-sign Cousins or play him under the franchise tag. They will also have to figure out their options with Pierre Garcon, who will become a free agent.
The "legal tampering period" for the NFL in 2017 begins March 7, which is when the Bucs can official contact Jackson's representatives. Players cannot begin signing contracts until the new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 9.