Jackson is signed for next season with a base salary of $10 million, none of which is guaranteed, but sources told Anderson that Jackson wants a fresh start with a different team.
Sources told ESPN that Jackson had a verbal exchange with coach Dirk Koetter over him not practicing with a hand injury in the week following the team’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12. Sources told ESPN’s Jenna Laine that Koetter was frustrated over what he perceived was a lack of effort from Jackson, who couldn’t practice fully because of the injury.
Quarterback Jameis Winston and Jackson connected on just 3-of-8 against the 49ers. Afterward, Koetter arranged a meeting with the two in which they broke down film in an effort to “find common ground.”
Winston said Thursday that he’s never questioned Jackson’s effort.
“I think DeSean Jackson is one of the best players in the NFL. I can’t really define that he was giving a lack of effort,” Winston said.
Jackson missed the next three games and returned in Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys, finishing with one reception for 24 yards, while suffering an Achilles injury.
When approached in the locker room Thursday, Jackson declined to speak to reporters.
“If this happened after the 49ers game, I’m not really sure what we’re talking about, so I’m not gonna say anything about it,” Koetter said, when asked about the exchange.
When asked to characterize his relationship with Jackson, Koetter said, “DeSean Jackson is a proven, outstanding player in this league. I’m a coach and he’s a player. I think our relationship is fine. That’s all there really is to say about it.”
Jackson’s guaranteed money is up after this season and it has long been believed that he won’t be brought back next year due to his level of frustration and the emergence of Chris Godwin as a No. 2 receiver.
Jackson has grown increasingly frustrated over his use in Koetter’s offense and lack of chemistry with Winston. Jackson had publicly advocated for Ryan Fitzpatrick to continue starting after Winston returned from suspension.
Winston said he believes Jackson’s frustration has stemmed from the Bucs being 5-10 with one game remaining and 10-21 while Jackson’s been in Tampa.
“I believe he’s a great teammate. He’s been a magnificent player in this league for a long time,” Winston said. “I don’t think anyone likes losing. And I think that can cause a lot of frustration when you’re losing. As a team, we love D-Jax.”
This season, Winston and Jackson are 14-of-34 (41.2 percent, no drops), the lowest receiving percentage of all Bucs receivers, and one touchdown. With Fitzpatrick this year, Jackson is 27-of-38 (71.1 percent) and three touchdowns.