Kelly keeps Eagles organization's best interest at heart

Posted: March 28, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. - At last, a little clarity.

Asked whether he'd told DeSean Jackson he wouldn't be traded, Chip Kelly yesterday said that he wouldn't discuss specifics of their conversation, but that the Eagles will do what's best for the organization. Asked whether there was any way the Birds' offense could possibly be better without Jackson, Kelly said the Eagles' attack isn't predicated on one player.

If you want to spin a fantasy about how this doesn't mean the Eagles are trying to trade Jackson, that Kelly could say the same thing about any player on the roster, go ahead, but "any player on the roster" was not the context, when Kelly sat down in front of several dozen reporters, the biggest throng gathered around any of the 16 tables at the NFC coaches' media breakfast.

The reason for the mob scene was Jackson, and Kelly's message was that he likes his 27-year-old, game-breaking wideout, that they had a good talk Monday night, that both parties understand where they stand with each other. His message was not "we have no intention of trading DeSean."

If Jackson heard such a guarantee when he spoke with Kelly, as has been implied in a few Jackson tweets, then Jackson heard wrong, assuming Kelly said the same kinds of things to Jackson that he said to reporters yesterday.

The Eagles clearly haven't heard an offer they like. Unless something was set in motion at these NFL meetings, which concluded yesterday, we could see a long interlude, maybe until the May 8 NFL entry draft, when such matters tend to heat up.

A general manager from another team told the Daily News yesterday that he thinks the Eagles eventually will find a trade partner, though he wasn't sure they'd end up getting more than a midround pick. The GM said Jackson's explosiveness is bound to intrigue someone enough for that team to be willing to take on his $10.75 million 2014 salary and the hassles that come with the care and feeding of a marquee wide receiver.

"All it takes is one coach, one offensive coordinator to say, 'Get me this guy,' " the GM said.

Kelly might have made Jackson a little more attractive to prospective trade partners when the coach told reporters that Jackson and agent Joel Segal have not asked the Eagles to make any sort of adjustment to Jackson's contract. On the day the Birds cleaned out their lockers, Jackson was asked whether he wanted something done, given that none of his remaining money is guaranteed, and Jackson said he thought his performance was "deserving."

But before we get too deep into details, let's take this thing from the top. (We'll just assume you weren't on the Internet yesterday or had no access to TV or radio. Glad you woke up from the coma, you had us worried.)

"We had a good conversation. We're always going to do what's best for the football team," Kelly said. "I think he knows where we are, and I know where he is. I feel very comfortable about it . . . I like DeSean. DeSean did a really nice job for us. But we're always going to do what's best for the organization."

When asked the "How could this make you better?" question, Kelly said: "We used three quarterbacks last year. We used multiple running backs. Our tight ends are integral to what we do. I think we have an outstanding offensive line. It's never been about just one guy . . . We were first in rushing and I think ninth in passing. I think there's balance in how we do things. You want great players at every position . . . but it's never been predicated on just one guy, because if it is, if he's out for a water break or hurt for an extended period of time, then you're going to be in trouble."

Kelly said Jackson, 5-10, 175, was good at the key thing he asks of a receiver, getting separation, but he noted that there are various ways to get that - through speed, as Jackson does, or through size and strength. Kelly also made a reference to "elite" wide receivers who have both speed and size.

Asked why he didn't reach out to Jackson sooner - reports about a possible trade surfaced more than 3 weeks ago, and Jackson was said to have been unhappy about the lack of communication - Kelly said he doesn't pay attention to media reports.

"Why did I do it [Monday]? I thought it was important at that point in time for me to call him," Kelly said, "so that he heard it from me, and I talked to him."

"Most of the guys that I've talked to are the guys that are in our building every day," Kelly said. So far, Jackson is spending the offseason home in California.

If the Eagles aren't trying to trade Jackson, you'd think they'd be interested in pursuing a tampering case with the NFL over Jets owner Woody Johnson telling reporters here Sunday that his team is interested in acquiring him. But Eagles general manager Howie Roseman tiptoed around that topic when he met with reporters Monday, and Kelly brushed it off yesterday.

"I don't get involved in that stuff, honestly," Kelly said.

Kelly seems to have at least temporarily smoothed over relations with Jackson, but if speculation continues - as it certainly will - and the Eagles still are unable to get what they consider a fair return, how can they put this back together? What will it be like if Jackson is standing in front of his NovaCare locker when OTAs start April 21, or training camp starts this summer, answering questions about an offseason of uncertainty?

"I've talked to DeSean, and I think DeSean and myself have a good understanding of where we are," Kelly said, when an NFL Network reporter tried to probe that topic. "What's reported, what's not reported isn't kind of how we go about things."

The reporter persisted, but Kelly wouldn't concede there could be a problem.

"I deal with him on a one-on-one basis, and I don't see what you're talking about," Kelly said.

Does Kelly see Jackson still on his team when those OTAs arrive?

"I don't anticipate anybody being on the roster at that point, or I anticipate them all being on the roster," he said. "I don't predict the future. We get rolling on April 21, and we'll get going."

One item that gets listed whenever anyone attempts to assess why the Eagles might want to part with Jackson is his sideline yelling match with receivers coach Bob Bicknell during the Eagles' Dec. 15 loss at Minnesota. Kelly played that down yesterday.

"There's a lot of yellin' and screamin' that goes along in competitive situations, whether it's player-player, player-coach, coach-coach. That's just part of the game," Kelly said. "I don't see that as serious at all."

One subtle moment in the 64-minute session came when Kelly said, "I gravitate toward guys that have an unbelievable work ethic." He mentioned DeMeco Ryans, Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce, Jeremy Maclin, even wideout Arrelious Benn, who, like Maclin, spent the season rehabbing a torn ACL.

Finally, a reporter asked whether Jackson was one of those guys.

"DeSean was there every single day, yeah," Kelly said.

So he, too, had an unbelievable work ethic?

"In the year I had him? Yeah," Kelly said. "Everything we asked him to do, I think he was outstanding in OTAs; in the offseason program, I thought he was one of our higher [participation] guys . . . Was there every day in-season, practiced every day . . . I'd put him in the group with all those guys."


Email: bowenl@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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