WASHINGTON — The contrast couldn’t have been greater for DeSean Jackson.
In a matter of days, he went from unwanted to wanted, from fired to hired, from discarded by the Philadelphia Eagles with reputation tarnished to rock star treatment and a new fat contract from the Washington Redskins.
Concerns about work ethic, attitude and reports about gang activity seemed miles away when he was being wooed by Robert Griffin III or enjoying his recruiting-style evening out with cornerback DeAngelo Hall, receiver Pierre Garcon and rapper Wale.
On Wednesday, Jackson closed the deal, signing a three-year, $24 million contract that includes $16 million guaranteed. The terms were disclosed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Redskins did not announce the financial details.
“I feel they embraced me,” Jackson said. “RG3, DeAngelo Hall reached out to me and made it feel like it was home. After everything that was going on the past couple of days, and the last week, that’s a big step. … I think the biggest thing about this move is finding a place where I can be happy and go out there and just be myself.”
Adding Jackson to an offense that includes Griffin, Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris should make the Redskins fun to watch again. Adding him to a locker room culture undergoing yet another overhaul might be the greater challenge.
The Redskins are getting a three-time Pro Bowl receiver with speed, someone who singlehandedly can change a defense’s approach. He set career highs with 82 catches for 1,332 yards last year for the NFC East champion Eagles. And Jackson, who led the NFL in punt return average in 2009, can give a badly needed boost to Washington’s special teams, although his production in the return game has waned over the last three years.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Redskins fan and a part of this team because of the firepower that we have,” Griffin said in a statement to reporters. “Everyone needs to understand that we haven’t won anything yet, and these next few months will be about building those bonds and chemistry so that we can.”
The Redskins are also getting a player not afraid to speak his mind who isn’t shy about his talents. He had a history of off-the-field issues in his six seasons with the Eagles. Among the lowlights: In 2011, he was deactivated for a game for being late for a team meeting and dropped more passes than usual, part of a season-long spillover from his unfulfilled desire for a new contract that led to an 11-day training camp holdout.
Last year, in Chip Kelly’s first season, Jackson fumed at members of the coaching staff on the sideline during a game and had to be restrained by two teammates, upset because he didn’t get the ball when he was wide open. He later lobbied for yet another new contract — just two years after getting a five-year, $48.2 million deal that included a $10 million signing bonus.
The Eagles decided enough was enough and tried unsuccessfully to trade Jackson. They released him last week, which Jackson called “a humbling experience.”
Regarding his reputation in the locker room, he said: “I’m not really here to address that. I feel the people that really know me and know what type of player I am, they respect me and know I’m a team guy.”
The day the Eagles let him go, Jackson issued a statement quashing another off-the-field report, denying involvement in gang activity near his hometown in Southern California.
“I just felt that was the right thing to do at the right time, and eventually I think people will understand and see the real DeSean Jackson and not see the painted picture that was put out on me,” Jackson said Wednesday.
On his conference call with reporters, Jackson went out of his way to point out some of his positive endeavors. He cited his foundation that raises money for research into pancreatic cancer, which claimed his father’s life in 2009. He also mentioned his book, “No Bullies in the Huddle.”
One serious matter to resolve — at least in the eyes of the fans — is whether Jackson will wear No. 10, as he did with the Eagles. Griffin already has that number in Washington.
“We talked about it a little bit,” Jackson said. “That’s a decision that hasn’t been made yet so far. … But maybe RG3 will wear No. 3.”
The Redskins are coming off a 3-13 season overwhelmed by bad chemistry between coach Mike Shanahan and franchise player Griffin. Shanahan was fired and replaced by Jay Gruden, who will be trying to set a new tone in the locker room.
The Redskins have weighed the risk-reward of talent-with-baggage before, with mixed results. Hall was known as much for his temperament as his talent when he arrived midseason in 2008, but he’s emerged as a team leader, made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and was re-signed last month.
But there was also Albert Haynesworth, who signed a massive contract in 2009 and gave the team one headache after another over two seasons.
The Redskins are losing one of their veteran leaders, linebacker London Fletcher, who has announced plans to retire. Fletcher’s replacement, leadership-wise, might be safety Ryan Clark, who agreed to terms earlier this week and signed his deal Wednesday.