SANTA CLARA, Calif. - There 49ers were in discussions with free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson about joining the red and gold in the spring, Jackson said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
"I had talks with the general manager (Trent Baalke), coach Harbaugh, things like that," Jackson said.
"It was a close call, and I almost made the trip to come out there. Obviously, Washington did what they did and they kept me here and made everything right. But I did have a couple talks. Coach Harbaugh and myself we played against each other at Cal when he was at Stanford and things like that. So I respect him and what he’s done."
Jackson, who is averaging more than 20 yards a reception for the second time in his career, signed a three-year $24 million contract with Washington after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles in what they termed a "purely football decision" following an 82-catch, 1,332-yard, 9-touchdown season in 2013.
"We came back from the owners' meetings (in late March), and we had no takers from a trade standpoint," Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters in April. "We felt at that point in time it was best to release him and let him negotiate with 31 other teams. It has nothing to do with anything that was ever written in a newspaper article, or any off-field behavior. DeSean was great in the year I was with him."
Jackson was released just hours after a NJ.com report linked him to gang members in Los Angeles who were tied to multiple homicides in recent years. Jackson was never implicated in those cases, nor was it implied he was a gang member.
Jackson is on pace for his second-straight 1,300-yard season despite Washington playing musical chairs at quarterback.
Robert Griffin III is slated to start in Levi's Stadium Sunday after last week's brutal 27-7 home loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccanneers. Griffin suffered a dislocated ankle in Week 2 after coming returning to play last season forcing Kurt Cousins to start. Washington is 4-13 with Griffin as a starter since the start of 2013, when he returned from his gruesome ACL tear sustained in the playoffs the previous winter.
Cousins made five starts before being benched at halftime of Oct. 19's game against the Titans. Former 49ers backup Colt McCoy came in to lead the comeback 19-17 win and earned a start the next week against the Dallas Cowboys on the following Monday night. McCoy notched another win, 20-17, completing 25 of 30 for 299 yards with a rushing touchdown, before being replaced by Griffin the following week after he returned from his injury.
Washington (3-7) has lost two straight since Griffin reclaimed the starting job.
Being one of the few established veterans on the struggling offense has forced Jackson to take over a leadership role this season.
"Being in my seventh year of the NFL, being able to be a mature individual and be a guy that players in the locker room look up to as far as my playing skills and my ability to spark the team up with big plays," Jackson said, "and do everything I can to help the team as far as win. That’s the role I’ve been taking on."
Jackson would have been one of many veterans had he elected to return to California and play for the 49ers (6-4). But with established starters Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin already in the mix, Jackson went where he would see more snaps in Washington.
"Being born and raised in California, (I) would love to be there, love to play there," Jackson said. "It was just a better fit and better situation to be where I’m at now."