In what seemed like the perfect union all along, Jackson has agreed to terms with the Buccaneers, the team announced Thursday. The deal is for three years and $33.5 million, including $20 million in guarantees, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. It was a big day for Jackson's agent, Joel Segal of Lagardere Sports, as well as he did deals totalling $122 million -- Jackson's; Reshad Jones' $55 million deal with Dolphins; and Tony Jefferson's $34 million deal with the Ravens.
The 30-year-old field-stretching wide receiver appeared to have a handful of suitors but will end up settling in with the cannon-armed third-year quarterback Jameis Winston. Rapoport said Winston was lobbying hard to get Jackson in Florida.
"It is rare to find a player in free agency with the combination of speed and natural playmaking ability of a DeSean Jackson," Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. "DeSean is a smart, gifted athlete who has averaged more than 17 yards per reception throughout his nine-year career and brings the type of veteran experience and deep threat receiving ability that will have an immediate impact on our offense."
The move is a significant warning shot to the rest of the division fired by Licht, who is looking to upgrade an offense that has the pieces to become one of the NFL's best. Last season, Winston was eighth in passing touchdowns and 16th in attempts. This season, we might see both of those numbers go up.
Winston targeted lead wide receiver Mike Evans a staggering 173 times in 2016, with the next-highest number at 83 from wideout Adam Humphries. The signing of Jackson adds a receiver who might not dazzle with overall stats but has a profound impact on the vertical passing game. Jackson caught 56 balls for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns last year, good enough for 17.9 yards per catch.
The one concern Tampa will run into is catch percentage. Jackson, throughout his career, has caught between 50 and 60 percent of the passes thrown in his direction -- largely indicative of the types of passes (go routes, deep ins, broken routes) that he receives more often. Evans finds himself in the same range, with a 55 percent catch rate in two of his last three seasons. This puts the onus on Winston, who has gotten the receivers he's always wanted but now has to make them work to his benefit.
Tampa, thankfully, does not have to worry about a drop off in Jackson's blazing speed right now. Next Gen Stats suggests the 30-year-old was actually faster in 2016 than he was at his top-end speed in 2015. Eventually, speed diminishes in every great wide receiver and they are forced to find different ways to get open. But for now, Jackson's greatest weapon seems firmly intact.