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DeSean Jackson's fan loyalty not motivating factor in where he lands

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Rich Schultz

Raiders fans are as crazy and loyal as they come. And they have been out in force trying to bring DeSean Jackson "home" to Oakland. The reason many consider the Bay Area to be home for Jackson is because he went to Cal. The fact that he grew up a Raiders fan also plays a part. Though neither will play a prominent role in where he decides to sign as a free agent.

The Bay Area isn't actually "home" for Jackson; Southern California is home. The Los Angeles native did grow up a Raiders fan, and he attended games when he was a kid. That is until the team up and left when he was nine-years-old to head back to their own "home" in Oakland.

Since then, the closest thing Los Angeles has had to professional football is USC. Therefore it was not the Silver & Black that Jackson was most crazy, it was the red and gold (Well, yellow, but whatever) of the Trojans.

Jackson came out of the prestigious Long Beach Poly Technical High School as the fourth ranked wide receiver in the entire country. Then USC coach Pete Carroll came calling and it was assumed he would be donning the uniform of the team he grew up rooting for. A perfect marriage of destiny... until Jackson left Carroll standing at the altar.

So, what happened?

Well, on every team, the coveted number is the number one. It was available at the time and DeSean wanted it. Pete Carroll knew Jackson was his top recruit but the number one is a bargaining chip he can only use once. And since he knew Jackson was a big USC fan, he thought he had him in the bag, and he figured he could hedge his bets. So he instead used the promise of the number one to try and lure another recruit from across the country, thinking he could get both.

He thought wrong.

Jackson saw this as Carroll taking him for granted and not making him a priority. He thought long and hard about it, and waited until the very last minute to make his decision where he chose to go to Cal instead. Jackson spurned the college team he dreamt of playing for and made a business decision for his future, while Carroll's gamble blew up in his face.

The former High School Mr Football All American and MVP of the US Army All-American Bowl was headed to Berkeley. He tore through the Pac-10 at Cal, making first team All-American twice. He was then chosen in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been a Pro Bowler three times in his six seasons in the NFL, including last season.

Even prior to being released by the Eagles on Friday, Jackson was said to have contacted the Raiders to show his interest in coming to Oakland. The Eagles were looking to trade him and he was trying to reach out to let the Raiders know if they wanted him, the feeling was mutual.

His reaching out to the Raiders may have been because he grew up a fan. It could also be because he wants to come back to play in his home state of California. But even so, those are not the major factors.

First and foremost, the Raiders are the only team on the market who can currently afford to pay him what he is asking without having to shuffle around some salaries and put money on the backend of his contract. Secondly, he knows in Oakland -- on a team bereft of super stars -- he would be the man.

The Raiders have made their offer to him. Just as Pete Carroll did so many years ago. And if it was about playing for the team he cheered on as a boy, he would be a Raider by now. Instead, he is in Washington chatting with the Redskins. He even tweeted out a picture of himself on the plane headed to Washington with the hashtag "#Business1st" underneath it.

It's possible if he can't strike a deal with the Redskins, he will be paying visits to other teams as well (the Buffalo Bills are said to have interest).

That's what this is - a business. DeSean has been savvy about this fact since he was in high school. He will seek out the best contract in the best situation for him, regardless of any kind of fan loyalty from his youth or urge to play in his home state.

This is a business, and his place in it -- like all NFL players -- is fleeting. At 27-years-old, this could be his last big NFL contract. He has to make it count. He has to find the place most willing to invest in him. And if that ends up being with the Raiders, well, that would just be a nice silver lining.

UPDATE: As luck would have it, no sooner did I post this but reports from Tim McManus of Philadelphia radio station 97.5 The Fanatic say that DeSean Jackson and the Redskins discussions have gone well and it is his signing with them is a "done deal". There have been some conflicting reports to this fact but we'll know for sure very soon.