Wide receiver Vincent Jackson will report to the San Diego Chargers next week and sign his contract tender, his agent said Thursday.
By reporting Oct. 29, Jackson will be able to serve a three-game, team-imposed suspension on the roster exempt list, then play in the final six games to accrue his sixth season toward unrestricted free agency.
Jackson and agent Neil Schwartz said earlier this fall that the receiver likely wouldn’t play this year.
”With the landscape of labor uncertainty, we wanted to create, at this point in time, certainty,” Schwartz told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Last week, the NFL Players Association recommended that Jackson and New England Patriots restricted free-agent Logan Mankins report to their teams in time to gained an accrued season.
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 Pro Bowl player who had two straight 1,000-yard seasons, won’t be paid when he misses games against Tennessee, Houston and Denver while on the roster exempt list. He was placed on the list Aug. 20 in a hardball tactic by general manager A.J. Smith.
Jackson will be eligible to return to the struggling Chargers for a game at Indianapolis on Nov. 28.
Counting the six games he plays and the bye week, he’ll earn $240,058 rather than the $3,268,000 he would have made had he signed his tender as a restricted free agent before the season.
The Chargers (2-4) could use Jackson sooner than he’s going to be available. They might be without Philip Rivers’ top two targets, tight end Antonio Gates and wideout Malcom Floyd when they host New England on Sunday. Those two missed practice Thursday, as did wide receivers Legedu Naanee and Craig Davis.
”My thoughts are exclusively on the Patriots,” coach Norv Turner said when asked about Jackson reporting. ”If Vincent reports, I’ll be excited to see him.”
Jackson’s original five-year contract expired after last season. But because this is an uncapped year, he would have needed six seasons to become an unrestricted free agent.
Unhappy over not receiving long-term deals in the offseason, Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill refused to sign their tenders as restricted free agents. Since they hadn’t signed by June 15, the Chargers were entitled to offer them 110 percent of their 2009 salaries, essentially cutting $2.5 million off the tenders.
McNeill, who also had been placed on the roster exempt list by Smith, reported Sept. 25. He served his three-game suspension and then last week agreed to a five-year contract extension through 2015 worth $48.5 million, with $24.5 million guaranteed.
San Diego’s unwillingness to sign Jackson to a long-term deal is believed to stem from the player’s off-field issues. He was suspended for the season’s first three games by the NFL after pleading guilty in February to his second DUI since 2006.
Hours before San Diego’s playoff loss against the New York Jets, Jackson was handcuffed briefly and had his car impounded following a traffic stop. Jackson was pulled over near team headquarters for playing loud music, then cited for driving with a suspended license and expired tags.
He had to catch a ride to the game with quarterback Philip Rivers. Jackson drew a 15-yard penalty for kicking the red challenge flag thrown onto the field by Jets coach Rex Ryan, one of three personal fouls called against the Chargers during the embarrassing 17-14 loss.
Last month, while Jackson was still within his three-game DUI suspension, the league and union brokered a deal under which the player could be traded and have six games worth of suspensions reduced to two.
The window for trading Jackson came and went without the Chargers moving him. Schwartz said he had deals in place with several teams but that the Chargers were asking for ”wholly unreasonable” compensation for another team to acquire Jackson.
Schwartz said another GM told him that Smith seemed to be ”squatting” on Jackson.
Smith didn’t return calls seeking comment.