In what has turned into a metaphorical line in the sand between a player and ownership – Jackson vs. the San Diego Chargers – the initial (see below) deadline in the opportunity for the Chargers to trade Jackson came and went. Had that team been the Vikings, he would have been available for the Oct. 17 game vs. Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps more importantly, he would have been available the following week when the Vikings make their 2010 trip to Lambeau Field. That opportunity is dead.
Unfortunately, it would seem this impasse may be the first shot across the bow in the egg shell-walking future of the NFL. Jackson has five years in the NFL and was preparing for a big pay day as a free agent. That chance was denied when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement collapsed. More than 200 players were going to be harnessed when their unfortunate place in NFL history deprived them of their right to be paid on the open market as unrestricted free agents, instead settling for the confines of restricted free agency in 2010.
Most other players afflicted with the same situation took the same approach – hope the free-agent market would find bidders, skip the offseason workout program and, prior to training camp, sign the tender and play. Ray Edwards is no less angry than Jackson over the situation. Jackson took a stand and said "no" – despite getting the largest possible tender he could get.
What makes the impasse a bit darker is that, when it became clear that Jackson was serious about maintaining his holdout, he and his agent were given permission to work out a trade with another team. According to the story as it has developed, Jackson's agent and an unnamed team – named by several sources as being the Vikings – had worked out an amicable deal. Many believed it was a one-year deal with a potential option to it that would likely make Jackson, a six-year veteran by season's end, an unrestricted free agent in 2011. The problem? The Chargers apparently had no intention of trading Jackson unless they were allowed to squeeze the trigger of the gun at the temple of a desperate organization. The Vikings seemed to be that team. When the Vikings refused to pay the ransom being demanded (said to be second- and third-round draft picks in 2011), the gun clicked and nothing happened.
In the aftermath, his agent dropped the classic line referring to San Diego general manager A.J. Smith as "The Lord of No Rings" – raising the bar of agent rhetoric. More troubling were text messages sent to NFL.com by Jackson saying he felt betrayed by the team.
"I can't understand why," Jackson said of the trade not being finalized. "They (the Chargers) obviously think I'm a valuable player by asking such high trade compensation, but why am I offered tender salary? My agents and teams interested did everything to make it happen, but this organization stopped it. I just want to play football. It feels unethical and I am disappointed."
While the vitriol is directed at Smith and the Chargers organization, the message is being sent to players league-wide that, under the current system, the owners can prove that they own the hammer. At best, the Chargers have claimed that Jackson should have been worth the compensation commensurate with what Denver got for Brandon Marshall – a second- and third-round draft pick. The flaw in that logic is that Miami gave up that bounty prior to the draft. Marshall was given the long-term contract he sought and he went through all the offseason workout programs with the team and was eligible for every game this year. Jackson would be showing up with 25 percent of the season in the rearview mirror. The two weren't even close to being comparable, but the Chargers seem to be living by their own set of rules.
What will be interesting now, much in the same way the news of Brett Favre's retirement didn't pan out, the candles being blown out at 3:01 p.m. Wednesday aren't the end of the Jackson saga. The backlash against Smith and the Chargers seems clear. What will Jackson be worth in two weeks? You can bet one thing. It still won't be a second- and third-round pick and, given the animosity that has boiled over, it may be much more of a buyer's market that it was the first time around. The question is whether San Diego will ever be willing to sell.