LOS ANGELES — They spent three seasons together in Washington, Sean McVay as the play-caller and DeSean Jackson as a play-making receiver.
Five years later, the opportunity to rekindle that relationship — and the chance to play in hometown Los Angeles for a possible Super Bowl contender — spurred Jackson to reunite with McVay and sign a free-agent contract with the Rams.
“He knows me,” Jackson said of McVay on Friday during a video conference with reporters. “He knows how to utilize me and he’s going to put me in the best positions to win.”
Jackson, 34, clearly is elated to possibly finish his career where he grew up.
The former Long Beach Poly High star signed a one-year contract that could be worth as much as $4.5 million, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
It is the fifth NFL stop for Jackson, who spurned USC to play at California before beginning his pro career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. The three-time Pro Bowl selection played for Washington in 2014-16, and Tampa Bay in 2017 and 2018 before returning to Philadelphia in 2019.
Jackson grew up in a Los Angeles that was devoid of NFL football. He said he used to play in a park near where SoFi Stadium was constructed. The chance to play in the $5 billion stadium in front of family and friends excites Jackson, who compared his situation to that of Lakers star LeBron James.
“I look at it like almost when LeBron went back to Cleveland and won a championship for Cleveland, Ohio,” Jackson said. “So, that’s what I’m here for, that’s all I’m really worried about.”
Jackson joins a Rams offense that will be led by new quarterback Matthew Stafford, acquired in a blockbuster trade for quarterback Jared Goff. Jackson said he has communicated with Stafford, and that he was looking forward to working with the 12-year veteran.
“His arm is out of this world, man, so I’m excited,” Jackson said. “I’m gonna say, ‘Man, just — I’m gonna run out far and you just throw it far,’ and hopefully we can beat everybody.”
The speedy Jackson is expected to fill a deep-threat role that the Rams sorely lacked last season. The Rams’ longest touchdown pass play covered only 56 yards, and McVay rarely gave Goff opportunities to throw deep.
After the season, McVay cited the need for longer plays to alleviate the pressure of having to continually execute lengthy drives.
“When you talk about opportunities, you have to call plays that give you an opportunity to be explosive and that’s where my contribution is,” he said last week, a few days before the Jackson agreed to terms. “Anytime that you have guys that can do that, that definitely is a benefit.”
Jackson has averaged 17.4 yards per catch, and he has scored on plays of 53 yards or longer in each of his 13 NFL seasons. Four times he had receptions of 80 yards or longer, including last season. In 2010, he had a 90-yard play.
But Jackson said he has never wanted to be considered a “one-trick pony,” and that McVay knows and will take advantage of all his skills. He is looking forward to contributing and imparting knowledge to a receiver corps that also includes Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson.
“I’m just glad to be an addition and add anything I can to help them better their games,” he said.
Jackson is coming off two injury-plagued seasons with the Eagles. He played in only five games last season because of hamstring and ankle injuries. He caught 14 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown.
But Jackson said Friday that he was “feeling great” and that he was eager to begin training.
“I’m feeling that I’m 100% healthy,” he said. “The rehab process has been going very well. … I haven’t hit the ground running, crazy yet. Just kind of easing my way back into it, but the process has been great.”
The Rams are hoping Jackson can recapture the form that helped him score 14 touchdowns and average nearly 19 yards per catch during his three seasons in Washington, where McVay was the offensive coordinator.
After the 2016 season, as the Rams considered hiring McVay as their new coach, they sought feedback from NFL players who had operated in his system. Jackson was among the players contacted, and he said he provided a strong endorsement.
Now, he is once again playing for McVay.
The time, he said, was right for him to come home to Los Angeles.
“If it would have been when I was younger, or even like five, six years ago, like I was just at a different point in my life,” he said. “I’m just in a different space in my life, so right now is a perfect fit, and it’s a perfect time, couldn’t have been any other time.”