Eagles' DeSean Jackson no longer a good fit?

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER DeSean Jackson caught a career-high 82 passes for 1,332 yards last season.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER DeSean Jackson caught a career-high 82 passes for 1,332 yards last season.
Posted: March 26, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. - Some of the thinking behind the Eagles' apparent decision to shed star wideout DeSean Jackson could be gleaned from the things Howie Roseman did talk about yesterday, after he declined to talk about Jackson.

The general manager talked effusively about new acquisition Darren Sproles, spoke confidently about Jeremy Maclin's ACL recovery. He touted the wide receivers in the upcoming NFL draft as the richest position group, and noted how top-rated receivers tend to fall in the first round. (The Eagles draft 22nd overall.)

He noted that there are several teams who seem set at WR, aren't going to take one in the first or second round. But more than all that, Roseman kept talking about building a culture and a team, how a player being a good fit culturally and schemewise might in some cases trump raw talent, and how early we still are in that building process under head coach Chip Kelly.

Jackson, 27, started every game, stayed healthy, caught a career-high 82 passes for 1,332 yards last season, and we all assumed he'd passed the new coach's "fitting in" test. But we still don't know Kelly all that well, it seems.

Asked if the Eagles' locker-room culture was where he wanted it to be last season, Roseman said: "It's going to be a constant commitment to us, to have the right culture and the right chemistry. When we looked at last year, really, it was the first year in that process. It was a great learning experience for us about what we had, what we needed. You'd like to get all of that right away. Certainly, that takes time. That's the most important thing that we're trying to do is develop that and develop a core group of players that we can go with for a period of time."

Again, this was not said in answer to a question about Jackson. Those queries went nowhere. Before agreeing to meet with a handful of Philadelphia-area reporters yesterday during a lunchtime break at the NFL meetings, on a back terrace at the Ritz-Carlton, Roseman sent word through an Eagles spokesman that he was not going to talk about the team's widely reported efforts to trade the player whose 6,117 receiving yards are the most through six seasons in franchise history, and Roseman stuck to that.

"He's still under contract. For us, until there's anything to report on our players, that's where we are right now," Roseman said.

Does Roseman envision Jackson still being one of his players when OTAs start, April 21?

"I respect that you guys are here and you have a job to do. That's why I'm here. But I also have a job to do," Roseman said.

Is the rampant Jackson speculation harmful to the Eagles? (Might it make it difficult to bring him back, if a suitable deal can't be struck?)

"I don't know how we can answer this any more," Roseman said. "But I'm happy to talk about the players we've acquired here. We've acquired a lot of players. If you guys don't want to talk about that, I understand."

Later in the session, asked whether he considered Jets owner Woody Johnson's admission Sunday that his team was interested in Jackson to be tampering, Roseman said he wasn't sure exactly what Johnson said and that he was keeping his "head down."

When the handful of reporters tried to gently swing the discussion topic back toward Jackson, Roseman said that not discussing whether you're trying to trade a player is important in establishing trust with the locker room. (This might come as a surprise to Jackson; sources close to D-Jax have said he would like to know what this is all about and hasn't talked to the front office about being traded.) When Roseman was asked if he has talked to Jackson, he demurred, saying it was important to keep communication private. (Also important to keep private whether there has been any communication, apparently.)

"I've always been open and willing to talk to you guys and our fans," Roseman said. "If it's appropriate, other than speculation, I'm happy to do that. Obviously, the only thing we care about is winning. We want to win. We're very fortunate that we have an owner who gives us the resources to do it . . . For us, it's about building the team. We're just starting; for us, it's the first year in this program."

On Sproles, a soon-to-be-31-year-old, 5-6 running back who caught 71 passes last season, Roseman said: "For us, it was all the things he brought to the table. You talk about his ability in space, to be a dynamic space player . . . and then really, we've had a churning of the return position. When we went back and looked at his returns [in 2013], looked back in the past, saw what we think he can do - we still think he's a dynamic returner and every time he's got the ball in his hands, defensive coordinators, special-team coaches have to game plan for it. We've seen that firsthand on more than one occasion.

"Then you add that to the leadership he brings. We have a young offensive skill position set. [Sproles has] off-the-charts leadership, off-the-charts work ethic, off-the-charts character. He's certainly a fit in our scheme offensively and special teams."

Asked about how Kelly intends to use Sproles, who was acquired from New Orleans for a fifth-round pick, Roseman said: "It's hard not to get excited when you see his ability to play in space, you see his ability to catch the football, run the football and return. Then you add obviously the off-the-field kind of character and the chemistry we're looking for. We're excited about having him."

On Maclin, who missed 2013 after suffering an ACL tear on the first day of full-squad work in training camp, Roseman said the Eagles' 2009 first-round pick "fits this offense," and that the Eagles were "excited about how he was going to play last year" before the injury. "Certainly there are franchise receivers in this league. I think those are unique guys, not that we don't have one, that's not it. We're just looking for really good players who fit our scheme and are going to contribute. But we look at our skill position players as a group."

It sure seems Roseman doesn't see Jackson fitting into that group. There were no trade revelations yesterday, beyond a report that said the 49ers definitely are interested in Jackson, the day after GM Trent Baalke's carefully chosen words to CSNBayarea.com indicated they were not, though Baalke left the door open a crack.

There seem to be two levels of interest: a relatively small group of teams that might be willing to trade for Jackson and his $10.75 million salary, and a much larger group that would get interested if he were released, and they could work out a more cap-friendly contract.

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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