San Diego Chargers say farewell to wide receiver Vincent Jackson; Hello to Meachem

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The NFL free agency period opened at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13 and already the San Diego Chargers have made nationwide headlines. The Chargers refused to place the franchise tag on Vincent Jackson, and as a result, the monster wide receiver has called it quits with San Diego, and decided to take his talents elsewhere. Those talents are indeed impressive, with an illustrious career that so far includes 4,754 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns.

In a 5-year deal that gives him $55.55 million, #83 is moving cross country to join Josh Freeman on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

At 6 foot 5 and 230 pounds, Vincent Jackson was not only a key target for Quarterback Philip Rivers, but also one of the most exciting players to watch on the Chargers roster and in the NFL in general. He has made two Pro Bowl appearances, including this year after finishing off the 2011 season with 60 receptions, an average of 18.4 yards a catch, and nine touchdowns. Needless to say, Charger fans across the county are pretty bummed over the loss of the big 83.

Fans however, can’t say they didn’t see this one coming. After an exciting 2009 season, that landed Jackson his first Pro Bowl appearance, the Chargers still refused to give Jackson the franchise tag. This influenced the Pro Bowler to miss training camp and sit out during the first seven games of the 2010 season, only to be suspended for an additional three games as a form of punishment carried out by General Manager AJ Smith, leaving Jackson no choice but to play for the remaining six games of the season.

Aside from contract disputes, the former Chargers receiver has also had his share of run-ins with the law, including two cites for Driving Under the Influence, and an arraignment for driving with a suspended license and expired tags.

While Charger fans are forced to bid a sad adieu to one of the most effective and entertaining Chargers in recent memory, they can also do nothing but look forward to the future of the franchise by welcoming who is essentially meant to fill the void left by Jackson.

In a four-year deal worth $25.9 million with $14 million guaranteed, the Chargers have picked up Robert Meachem, previously of the New Orleans Saints. At 6 foot 2 and 210 pounds, Meachem is not exactly the same beast San Diego had in Jackson, but he can prove to be a key player in the receiving unit through his quick speed and vertical reach. In his last season with the Saints, Meachem made six touchdowns with 620 receiving yards.

This is shy of Jackson’s explosive performance in his last year as a Charger, which wound up with VJ receiving 1,106 yards to end the 2011 season. The franchise tag would have cost the Chargers $13.7 million to keep the heavy impact player on the squad, and now he’s moving from the Golden State to the Sunshine State in a deal worth quadruple the amount.

Only time will tell if AJ Smith’s replacement of Jackson with Meachem proves beneficial for the blue and gold. He is responsible, after all, for some of the Chargers’ best players, including Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, and more recently, Jared Gaither at Left Tackle, a position we were in desperate need to occupy at the end of the 2011 season, who has just reached an agreement to stick with the Chargers for four more years.

Not to disparage the exceptional talent of both Vincent Jackson and Robert Meachem, but when it’s all said and done, you can put a ham sandwich at wide receiver. As long as we get to the Super Bowl, we’ll all be happy.

This coming 2012 season, we can only hope Meachem serves up a tasty ham sandwich.

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