49ers fleece Seahawks with Jackson signing
The 49ers, however, certainly aren't complaining. They just picked up the legitimate No. 1 receiver they were hoping to find this offseason, and all it cost them was the No. 124 overall selection in the NFL draft - a chincy little fourth-rounder, something the Niners could have just given away, since they had four of them this year to begin with. Let the details of the situation reverberate in your brain for just a moment: Jackson, who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns last year before suffering a toe injury last December, is in the prime of his career at age 28 after finishing as Seattle's leading receiver in four of the past six seasons. That includes last season, when he averaged a tidy 15.2 yards on his 63 receptions to go along with the 10 touchdown catches he recorded before his injury. That raised his career total to 47 TDs to go along with a 14.6 average on 441 career receptions. Those numbers make him one of the most productive receivers in Seattle history. More to the point, as far as the 49ers are concerned, San Francisco's receivers corps basically reeked before Jackson's arrival. Sure, the Niners added Ashley Lelie in free agency during the offseason, but frankly, that guy hasn't proven that he is any better or more dependable as a top wideout than Antonio Bryant, and we all know how that worked out last season after the Niners threw a bunch of free-agency coin at Bryant. Now, suddenly, the 49ers have a solid No. 1 and two No. 3 NFL receivers - Lelie and Arnaz Battle - who can compete to be the team's No. 2 along with the promising rookie receiver the 49ers picked up in the third round Saturday, Washington State's productive Jason Hill, of whom Jackson himself said, "He's a great talent who I've been watching up here in Seattle for a little while. He's going to come in and fit well and work hard and produce well in every game." And, perhaps even as much to the point, San Francisco's gain is Seattle's loss. The Seahawks had their reasons for moving Jackson - he clashed with management, carried a big salary and Seattle also is paying big money to receivers Deion Branch and Nate Burleson - but in moving him hundreds of miles south to San Francisco, they just significantly improved the 49ers at the team's weakest area. And, as if the Seahawks aren't noticing, the 49ers have emerged as the biggest 2007 threat to Seattle's three-year reign as NFC West champion, particularly after sweeping the Seahawks last season. As Jackson said Sunday morning after the deal was consummated, "I think the (49ers) organization is headed upwards. They got a great coach in Mr. (Mike) Nolan and the team really responds to him and what he's trying to do here. They beat the division champions and Super Bowl runner-up Seattle twice last year. They have great players here with great attitudes that want to win." And now, apparently, have added another. "I think I got five more years before I start to break down and really slow down," Jackson said. "I just see myself coming in trying to help the 49ers win some games and help out the wide receiving core. I was a big part of (Seattle's) success from a wide receiver standpoint, and me bringing my stats and ability over here might put us over the edge." Exactly. And the best part of it is, the price was right for the 49ers. In fact, it was virtually no price at all. The team had four fourth-round picks in this draft. Who's going to miss one? "If we were picking somebody at 124, which is what we gave (Seattle), I don't know if we would have gotten Darrell Jackson right there," said Nolan, who had to fight back a smile as those words seeped from his mouth. "So, I feel good about that. But (Seattle)'s going to get a young player that they feel they can groom. But from our standpoint, we didn't feel there was the same player then." No kidding. From Seattle, a source very close to the Seahawks says of the move, "I thought (Jackson) was going to get Seattle a first-day pick or stay (with the team). Basically, he led the NFL in touchdowns before he was hurt last year. He and Matt Hasselbeck have developed a real rapport over the years. Consider that Javon Walker was worth a (second-rounder) coming off a torn ACL, Deion Branch (who has never been as productive as Jackson) cost Seattle a first, Randy Moss was worth a fourth with all his crap - and here is Seattle, willing to trade their best receiver to a division rival for a (shrugs shoulders) pick." The Seahawks built a Super Bowl team in large part because of their front-office acumen, but the 49ers got the best of Seattle on this one with one of Seattle's former up-and-comers - 49ers personnel chief Scot McCloughan, who before coming to San Francisco was Seattle's director of college scouting - helping Nolan call the shots. And it might not take too many more instances of getting-the-best-of-Seattle to push the 49ers past the Seahawks. "It gives us some versatility," Nolan said, summarizing the move. But when SFI asked if the perception was accurate that the 49ers got the best of a one-sided deal, the coach replied, "Let's keep it (tight-lipped) right now. Let the results next year prove whatever it may, because right now, it's a weapon." A big, much-needed weapon the 49ers stole from a key rival for virtually nothing.
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