The Buccaneers have joined the 2012 free agency fray, landing the top available free agent wide receiver in former Charger Vincent Jackson.
Jackson will reportedly sign a five-year, $55-million contract with Tampa Bay that includes $36-million in payments over the first three years of the deal.
With second-year players Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn suffering through sophomore slumps in 2011, the Buccaneers were in the market for a big play wide receiver and Jackson figures to take over as the team’s top threat at the position in 2012.
The former Division II player out of Northern Colorado possesses excellent size (6’5” 230 pounds) and speed, as his career average yards per catch of 17.5 indicates. Jackson has also shown the ability to out jump defenders on deep balls.
Removing his injury-marred, suspension and contract holdout shortened 2010 season, Jackson caught 187 passes for 3,371 yards and 25 touchdowns during the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons.
Despite his solid production, the Chargers were unwilling to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract given their belief that he had failed to reach his potential, his constant injury issues and their concerns regarding his off the field behavior.
Off the top, this move has to be viewed as lowering Vjax’s fantasy value. He goes from catching passes from one of the top quarterbacks in the league and playing in the league’s 5th ranked scoring offense to playing with a far more inexperienced quarterback coming off a horrible season and playing in the league’s 27th ranked scoring offense. Let’s get one of those pointing down arrows and stick it beside his name.
Jackson was the 10th ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2011 but he rates as a mid-tier WR2 in 2012. Simply put, Josh Freeman is coming off a horrendous season and has not proven to be as accurate on deep passes as Philip Rivers and those plays have been Jackson’s bread and butter throughout his career in San Diego.
Freeman obviously wins out as he now has a true number one wide receiver for the first time in his career and the Bucs receiving depth chart rounds out nicely with Williams, Benn, Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe and Sammie Stroughter. Freeman ranks as a high-end fantasy backup with upside in 2012.
Williams wasn’t a complete bust last season but he was clearly a huge disappointment, as his yardage and touchdown totals plummeted from his solid rookie season in 2010 when he caught 64 passes for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns. Given Jackson’s size and ability to stretch the field, Williams figures to be featured on more short and intermediate routes in 2012 and his red zone opportunities also figure to be diminished.
Williams rates as fantasy backup in 2012 but is worth taking a flier on provided he shows a renewed dedication and reports to training camp in better physical condition than was the case in 2011.
Outside of deep leagues and dynasty formats, Benn’s fantasy value basically drops to nil. Unless he beats out Williams, he is waiver wire material in most formats.
However, the biggest fantasy loser is Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who loses his top wide receiver and arguably San Diego’s top receiving option ahead of tight end Antonio Gates. While Robert Meachem will take over for Jackson in the Chargers starting line-up, he is an inconsistent player and both Gates and Malcom Floyd, the team’s other starting wide receiver, have proven to be injury-prone. Rivers moves to low-end starter status in 2012.
Both Meachem and Floyd see their fantasy values rise but neither should be relied on as a starting option in 2012 until they prove otherwise.