Jackson hasn't been as much of a playmaker in 2011 as he's been in the past. After scoring a combined 20 touchdowns in the past two seasons (rushing, receiving and on punt returns), he has scored just two this season.
Add to this the sideline reports of a disconnect between Jackson and his teammates during Thursday night's game against the Seahawks, and his actions at the postgame interview, and if things continue to go the way they have for Jackson in Philadelphia, he may not have to worry about a franchise tag. They may just let him walk.
It just so happens the Patriots have a need for a young, dynamic wide receiver. Wes Welker and Deion Branch are "field stretchers" in their own right, but both are over the age of 30. New England's most promising young prospects at wide receiver are Taylor Price and Tiquan Underwood. Neither has caught a pass this season, and Underwood had an egregious drop against the Eagles on a wide open deep pass.
Jackson's plight is all too familiar in the NFL. On the one hand, you have a game-breaking wide receiver capable of stretching the field and providing explosive plays at the drop of a hat. On the other hand, you have a perceived prima donna who appears to put himself before the team.
The latter outweighs the former in many cases, but the opposite is also true, and the Patriots have been known to roll the dice on plenty of players with character concerns. Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco are just the most notable instances.
The success rate of these cast-offs has been a mixed bag, but Jackson's playmaking ability makes him at least a worthwhile option to consider. And while the risk of locker room dissension may be enough to steer the Patriots clear of Jackson, the prospect of deep passes from Tom Brady to Jackson is certainly exciting. But then again, so was the prospect of deep passes from Brady to Ochocinco.