DeSean Jackson brings needed speed and experience to Buccaneers' receivers

1:00 | NFL
Three players poised to cash in during free agency
Thursday March 9th, 2017

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on the brink last season of earning a playoff berth for the first time in 10 years. It was a long shot, but they still had a chance at the sixth seed when teams kicked off at 1 p.m. ET in Week 17.

Today’s move will go a long way to seeing if the Bucs can get over the hump in 2017 and win the NFC South.

DeSean Jackson will be a Buccaneer, and that’s good news for Jackson, Mike Evans and Jameis Winston. It’s also very bad news for the Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta secondaries that already had trouble covering Tampa Bay before Jackson got there.

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We will update with contract numbers later, but no doubt Tampa Bay had to spend to get one of the top three receivers on the market (along with Alshon Jeffrey and Terrelle Pryor). No one could blame Jackson for not being willing to stay in Washington where it’s unclear who’s calling the shots, arranging contracts or, even, who will be throwing the ball in 2017.

Jackson is probably the best thing to ever happen to Winston on the football field. Winston is the football equivalent of a high-volume shooter in basketball when it comes to deep balls. Last year he averaged 5.4 passes that traveled in the air 20 or more yards per game, which was third-most in the league. He completed just 26.7% of those passes, placing him 26th overall.

No one throws the ball longer, on average, more than Winston, whose 10.8 attempted air distance outpaced all other quarterbacks in 2016. For all his potential greatness, Winston is regularly erratic (his career completion percentage is below 60) and he always, always, always misses long.

Say hello to Mr. Jackson, who’s the NFL’s active leader in yards per catch. Jackson averages 17.7 yards per catch, and three times (including last season) he led all receivers in the category. On paper, this should cure Winston’s deep-passing ills, but we’ve been duped before.

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Evans is only getting better as a receiver after relying so heavily on his size at Texas A&M and his 2014 rookie season. His 1,321 receiving yards were fourth-most in the league last year to go along with 12 touchdowns. He could already beat a team’s biggest corner, and now he’s paired with Jackson, who can beat a team’s fastest corner.

The biggest remaining question is what happens with Vincent Jackson. The 6' 5", 34-year-old unrestricted free agent won’t break the bank wherever he goes, but if he’s willing to move to the slot in the twilight of his career, good luck to opponents trying to cover him inside. A Jackson-Evans-Jackson trio would easily be the best in the NFC South, given that the champion just lost their offensive coordinator, the previous champion needs an offensive overhaul and the Saints apparently no longer want Drew Brees to throw to Brandin Cooks.

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