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Bang for their Bucs: Wide Receiver, DeSean Jackson

A stats-to-dollars look at key Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2018

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2017 off-season Desean Jackson was the top acquisition for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The speedster was the key to a summer of “Weapons for Winston” campaign.

What followed was HBO’s Hard Knocks, fandemonium, and a painting or two commemorating the turning of a corner for the franchise. Welp.

Now, two years later, and a lifetime ago it seems we’re here. Jackson has reportedly sold his home. Last we knew, hasn’t spoken with new head coach Bruce Arians or new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

Things aren’t looking so hot moving forward for Jackson and the Bucs, but we’re not here to talk about that right now. We’re here to talk about the year that was, and to determine whether or not the Bucs got what they paid for with Jackson.


2018 CAP EXPENSE: $11M




After a disappointing 2017, some wondered if Jackson and quarterback Jameis Winston would ever get on the same page.

Chemistry can take time, sure, but after a solid off-season, camp and full year of football to get it together it just didn’t happen.

Maybe it was scheme, maybe it was play-calling, maybe it was shoulder injuries. Whatever the reason, it didn’t happen at the rate everyone thought it would in Jackson’s first year in Tampa.

Still, entering 2018 there was really no doubt he’d be a part of the Buccaneers’ 2018 squad. For starters, one year is just not enough to give up on such a dynamic player. Plus, with Winston’s suspension to start the season, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick needed all the weapons he could get.

Oh, and he carried $11M in dead money if the Bucs released him.

In 2019, he carries zero dead money. And for the team to justify investing Top-5 roster assets to him again, is going to be a big sell. Apparently, for both sides.


Jackson’s 41 receptions placed him fourth on the team receptions list in 2018 behind fellow receivers Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin. His four touchdown receptions landed him sixth on the team with Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard finishing above the 32-year old in the category.

Where he did lead the team was unsurprisingly in yards per reception. His 18.9 yards per average was solid, but when you consider it only out-measured Mike Evans by one-yard, it shows just a little bit of how disappointing this marriage between Jackson and the team has been. He was also the only wide receiver to have a rushing touchdown for the team in 2018.

Jackson started the year with three touchdowns in two games. He finished with one in the final ten games he appeared in, and didn’t score another touchdown following his Week 8 touchdown in Cincinnati.

In three full games with Fitzpatrick under center, Jackson averaged four catches for 104-yards and one touchdown per game. Starting with Chicago, Jackson’s averages dropped to two and a half catches, 46-yards and .2 touchdowns per game.

Finally, he didn’t play at all in four of the team’s final five games, and many people came just short of accusing the eleven-year pro of mailing it in down the stretch.

It’s not hard to understand why Jackson felt Fitzpatrick was the better quarterback for 2018. It was just hard to watch as he unraveled because it didn’t happen.

In games that Fitzpatrick played in, Jackson averaged around four catches per game, 78-yards and scored four touchdowns.

When Fitzpatrick didn’t play he averaged three catches per game but for only 40-yards on average and no touchdowns. What did go up was his frustration and questions about his effort. I still contest he and Winston were simply on a different page in his most notorious lack of effort accusation.


Among NFL receivers, Jackson finished outside of the Top-50 in catches. Players like Christian Kirk from Arizona, Philadelphia’s Alshon Jeffery and Julian Edelman of the Patriots had more receptions. Only Jeffery played one more game than Jackson in 2018. Edelman and Kirk each played 12.

His cap number cost the Buccaneers more than those three players cost their teams, combined.

As we know, when he did catch the ball, he did good things with it and he finished 32nd among NFL receivers with his 774-yards. Only Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos and Edelman had more yards playing in 12-games this past season.

For yards per reception, he and Josh Gordon were the only two receivers to finish 2018 with an average above 18-yards per reception.

So, when he touched the ball, good things happened. He just didn’t touch it very often.

According to PFF’s receiver stats, Jackson was targeted deep (20-yards or more) on a larger percentage of his total targets than any other NFL receiver who had at least 70-targets in 2018.

Of his 27 deep ball targets, he caught nine, which ranked him tied for eleventh in the with a host of other receivers. Guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay, and Odell Beckham Jr.

Guys who aren’t necessarily having their value questioned. The big difference between them and Jackson appears to be usage. Again, Jackson led the NFL in deep targets versus total targets with 37.5% of his targets being 20-yards deep or longer.

Smith-Schuster and Beckham Jr. both had deep target percentages under 20% and Golladay came in at 20.9%. Yet all three had well over 100 total targets compared to Jacksons 72, and only Golladay - a second-year player on the 20th ranked passing offense in the NFL - averaged close to the same amounts of targets per game as Jackson - the number two receiver on the most effective passing game in the league.


One could argue Jackson gave up on his team. There were times where it certainly appeared that way on the field, and on Instagram. However, looking at some of the usage numbers compared to the way other teams use receivers of similar talents, and maybe you can start to understand why he was so frustrated.

Without stepping into the locker room, it’s hard to know exactly why his numbers became skewed in the way they did.

No matter how you slice it, Jackson had more targets 20-yards or more downfield than he did 10-yards and less. For a receiver facing off coverage as much as Jackson does, those numbers shouldn’t be like that.

Was it Winston? Was it Koetter? Was it Monken? We don’t know. I’d love to have Jackson on the Locked on Bucs podcast to discuss it - honestly and openly - but I don’t know that he feels there’s anything worth talking about.

For now, we have the numbers and our perceptions.


NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

But who ripped off whom?

If ever there was a set of confusing stats, this is it. Jackson’s reception numbers were abysmal. But his yards per catch were amazing.

His target numbers were terrible, but when he was targeted they were largely of the unlikely to complete variety. Tyreek Hill had the most catches of 20-yards or more with 20. In sixteen games, this means he had fewer than two per game. The rest of his production came from other streams.

Even Hill wasn’t targeted deep as much as Jackson was on a per target scale, and the Chiefs were far more successful doing it with Mahomes and Hill than the Bucs ever were with Fitzpatrick or Winston and Jackson.

We can say this. The Bucs got ripped off, but by who is the question. If you buy a Ferrari and can’t drive a stick, is it the cars fault?

Is it possible DeSean Jackson got ripped off? After all, if time is more valuable than money, then Jackson spent two years - possibly three - potentially wasting some of the final years of his career.

What’s your opinion?


What’s the verdict on DeSean Jackson with the Bucs?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    DeSean Jackson wasn’t worth the money, move him
    (118 votes)
  • 30%
    DeSean Jackson was worth the money, the team didn’t use him right and need to move him
    (109 votes)
  • 10%
    Jameis Winston wasted DeSean Jackson’s talent, move DJax
    (38 votes)
  • 7%
    Jameis Winston wasted DeSean Jackson’s talent, move Winston
    (26 votes)
  • 18%
    DeSean Jackson was worth the money, the team needs to keep him and learn how to use him right
    (67 votes)
358 votes total Vote Now