Report: Bucs, Bears and Redskins all interested in Vincent Jackson

San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) scores on a 5-yard pass as Chicago Bears free safety Brandon Meriweather (31) and cornerback Charles Tillman (33) defend during the third quarter at Soldier Field on November 20, 2011 in Chicago. UPI/Brian Kersey

There have been conflicting reports over the last 24 hours about which teams are the supposed frontrunners to acquire free agent receiver Vincent Jackson. But this much is sure: V-Jax will have plenty of suitors when the NFL free agency period kicks off on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, The SidelineView.com’s Lance Zierlein said that the “belief around the league” is that the Redskins will go “very hard” after Jackson following their trade with the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick. Washington is in desperate need of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and without a first round pick in 2013 and 2014, the Skins need to be aggressive in free agency. After all, Robert Griffin III will need a big target to throw to when the Redskins draft him with the second overall pick in late April. (Or at least, that’s what the supposed plan is in Washington.)

The Redskins were also mentioned by the Union-Tribune San Diego as one of the two teams believed by them to be the frontrunners for Jackson. The other team mentioned in the Union-Tribune’s report was the Bears, who have been in need of a prototypical No. 1 receiver for what seems like the existence of their franchise.

Ironically, there was a story in Monday’s Chicago Sun Times that conflicts with the Union-Tribune’s report. According to the Sun Times, the Buccaneers have the “inside track” when it comes to signing V-Jax, and not the Bears. Tampa Bay has loads of cap space and a definite need at receiver, so the Sun Times’ report may have legs. That said, it’s not uncommon that reports conflict with each other around this time of year, as player representatives try to build a market for their clients.

Jackson is now the face of a very deep wide receiver pool in this year’s free agent class, especially with Wes Welker (franchised/Patriots), Dwayne Bowe (franchised/Chiefs), DeSean Jackson (franchised/Eagles) and Steve Johnson (re-signed/Bills) off the market. Reggie Wayne (Colts), Marques Colston (Saints), Brandon Lloyd (Rams), Robert Meachem (Saints) and Mario Manningham (Giants) are all unrestricted and will be available on Tuesday. Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent, but if a team is will to part with a first-round pick he might become available due to the Steelers’ cap issues.

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Vincent Jackson willing to give the Chargers a hometown discount?

San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) catches a pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams (38) during their NFL football game in San Diego, California, November 6 , 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

According to the Union-Tribune San Diego’s Kevin Acee, there’s a belief that free agent receiver Vincent Jackson is willing to give the Chargers a hometown discount.

The Chargers are believed to be willing to pay Jackson between $10-11 million annually on a five-year deal, but they are inclined to let the market be set by others. Jackson is expected to receive more in offers from other teams.

Jackson, too, has expressed his desire to remain in San Diego, with Rivers and Turner, despite past tensions with the front office. There is even a belief by those who have talked with Jackson that he would take less from the Chargers than he could get elsewhere. However, he has desired a long-term commitment from the Chargers for more than three years and his list of suitors will make re-signing him a challenge once he gets to the open market.

V-Jax will have no shortage of teams interested in his services next month. The Bears come to mind as the most receiver-needy team, although one would think the Chargers would be pretty desperate to keep him in San Diego.

Philip Rivers threw for 4,710 yards and 30 touchdowns without having Jackson for most of 2010, but the Chargers can’t rely on an aging Antonio Gates to be their main weapon in Norv Turner’s vertical offense. When healthy and not in the midst of a contract dispute, Jackson is one of the most productive receivers in the game. He runs great routes, has soft hands, is a true vertical threat, and he’s a solid blocker in the run game. Even though his off-field issues make him somewhat of a risky signing, he’ll likely be worth his price tag this offseason.

It’ll be interesting to see how aggressive Smith is when it comes to retaining Jackson’s services. If V-Jax wants to stay in San Diego, the there should be no reason that the Bolts don’t have him locked up early in free agency. But nothing is easy when it comes to Smith and players’ contract situations.

NFL Free Agency Update: Forte, Wallace and V-Jax

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (R) is brought down by San Diego Chargers’ Steve Gregory (L) in the first half of their NFL football game in Chicago, Illinois, November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Bears set to open contract talks with Forte
NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that the Bears will open contract talks with free agent running back Matt Forte in Indianapolis this weekend. Head coach Lovie Smith believes that signing Forte is “only a matter of time” for the Bears, but the franchise tag remains very much in play.

Seahawks to tag Lynch if no long-term deal is reached
Seattle general manager John Schneider stated that running back Marshawn Lynch would receive the franchise tag if the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal before the March 5 franchise deadline. Schneider remains optimistic that a four-year deal can be reached, however.

V-Jax expected to stay with San Diego?
In somewhat surprising news, NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora reports that “people close to” free agent receiver Vincent Jackson are convinced he’ll be franchised despite contrary reports. The two sides haven’t made much progress when it comes to a long-term deal but it seemed as if the Chargers were willing to let him test the market instead of tagging him. At the end of the day, the Bolts are, and should be worried about trying to replace Jackson’s production. Norv Turner’s vertical passing game would take a hit if the Chargers had to rely on an aging Antonio Gates to carry the load.

Franchise tag still a possibility for Wallace
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said on Thursday that the Steelers will extend a first-round tender to restricted free agent receiver Mike Wallace and that the franchise tag remains a possibility. The Steelers clearly want their No. 1 receiver back but they have limited cap space and Wallace is due for a huge pay raise. His contract situation will be one of the more intriguing storylines this spring.

Falcons willing to let Abraham test the market
John Abraham was the Falcons’ lone pass rusher last season but he turns 34 in May and still wants to be paid like one of the best defensive ends in the game. With a slew of other free agents that also need contracts, the Falcons are apparently willing to allow Abraham to test the market. If that’s the case, then Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff has a huge task on his hands in trying to beef up the Falcons’ pass rushing situation for the 2012 season.

Vincent Jackson will sign tender, report to Chargers at the end of month

SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 25:  Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers carries the ball on a 59 yard pass play in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks on August 25, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, setting up a Chargers touchdown.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Vincent Jackson and his agent know that if V-Jax doesn’t play in at least six games this season, then he won’t become eligible to sign with another team as an unrestricted free agent after this season.

That’s why it’s no surprise to hear his representative Neil Schwartz say on Thursday that V-Jax will sign what’s left of his prorated $583,000 tender and join the Chargers on October 29.

Jackson still must sit out three games due to his Roster Exempt status, which means he won’t play until Week 12 at the earliest. Given the Chargers’ early-season struggles this year, they can take all the help they can get, when they can get it.

If he’s motivated (which is a big question mark), Jackson is a complete player. He can stretch a field, he’s a weapon in the red zone and he’s arguably the best blocker in the league from the wideout position. He has also reportedly kept in good shape because he was hoping to be traded by this point. He’ll help the Chargers once he reports.

Of course, this isn’t about helping the Chargers for Jackson. It’s about accruing the six games needed so he can become a free agent at the end of the year. Neither he nor his agent want to deal with GM A.J. Smith and go through all of this again next offseason.

Vincent Jackson eligible to play in Week 5 if he’s traded

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17: Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball after a catch against the New York Jets during AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

After reaching a settlement with the NFL on Thursday, San Diego Tribune writer Kevin Acee is reporting that Vincent Jackson is eligible to play in Week 5 if he’s traded.

That’s big news for teams interested in dealing for Jackson, because now they don’t have to wait until Week 7 for him to suit up. He’s currently serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s conduct policy and would have had to serve another three games if he didn’t reach a settlement today.

The Rams and Vikings are two teams that are reportedly interested in V-Jax, although Rotoworld seems to think that the Seahawks and Redskins may also get into the mix as well. Jackson is a rare commodity in that he’s a receiver that can not only stretch the field in the deep passing game, but he’s also one of the best blockers in the league – if not the best.

Earlier today, I wrote about how trading for Jackson may not be the best thing for the Vikings long-term. You can read that article here.

This is great news for V-Jax owners as a trade is far more likely now than it was a few hours ago. If you’ve had him this long, you might as well hold onto him and see what the next week brings. And if you can pick him up off the waiver wire cheaply, do so.

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