I think people consider the Franchise Tag in the wrong manner. Instead of a 1 year mega-deal, consider it an extension to the existing contract. The Franchise Tag becomes a good faith offer from a team for a players past performance. DeSean is taking the tag very well, and for good reason. His 2012 salary will triple his total salary from the previous 4 seasons, it will bring his salary in line with the other two starting WRs and it rewards him for his previous performance.
Numbers after the jump...
DeSean Jackson's rookie contract was a 4 year deal worth $3.45M, averaging $.86M over 4 years. Whether you consider DeSean top 5, top 10 or otherwise, I think everyone agrees he outplayed his rookie deal. Jason Avant made $5.87M in 2010 and 2011 alone, signing a 5 year $14.7M deal in 2010. Jeremy Maclin's rookie contract is 5 years, $12.8M. Maclin makes $1.6M more per year than DeSean, *on average*. If you consider the tag a one year extension to DeSean's rookie deal, it becomes 5 years at $12.8M. This is not a one year megadeal, this is back pay.
The following table compares annual salaries (cap number) for D. Jackson, Maclin and Avant from 2008-13.
*Beginning of Avant's new contract.
The Eagles have extended the olive branch. In good faith, they have made DeSean as well paid as their 2009 first round pick, Jeremy Maclin. They can allow the WR market to settle out and get a reasonable basis for a deal. They retain DJax's services at the discount rate of $2.46M, averaged over a 5 year contract. They have avoided any bidding war issues. They have the right to keep him or trade him. The only downside is, baring a new contract, the Eagles will take a $9.4M cap hit in 2012.
I am not really a "cap expert," so I apologize for any mistakes I make here. This brings the cap number down to $19M. Jammal Jackson is worth $1.8M against the cap, zero dead money. Asante Samuel is worth $10.5M against the cap, $2M dead money. If both leave the Eagles, the cap number goes back up to $29.3M. That is plenty of room for rookies, FA acquisitions and players like Landri, Mathis, Dixon and Dunlap. Signing DeSean to a long term deal could lower the number even more if the base salary plus prorated signing bonus is lower than $9.4M. If $19M is not enough for all the off-season moves, Asante Samuel will be playing somewhere else in 2012.
All numbers are taken from the excellent site, EaglesCap.com.