Room on Kelly's wagon?

Posted: March 28, 2014

FOR PEOPLE of a certain age who appreciate a certain genre of motion picture, nitroglycerin played a frequent role.

Nitro, stored in glass jars and protected by cotton wadding in a rickety crate in the back of a buckboard, provided a thrill in the stock scene: The wagon goes out of control, putting some precious cargo in terrible danger.

If that nitro got bumped too hard, or if the wagon careened over the cliff . . . BOOM!

Chip Kelly is driving the wagon.

His Eagles have cast DeSean Jackson as an expendable malcontent . . . after he completed his best season, and did so with a minimum of insubordination.

The most stable player on the team, Evan Mathis, a modestly underpaid guard, reportedly asked for, and was denied, a raise . . . even as two linemates had their contracts extended.

And, now, the Eagles have replaced the most controversial quarterback in league history with the second-most controversial quarterback on the East Coast. They agreed to terms with Mark Sanchez in a QB swap with the dysfunctional Jets, who lured Michael Vick with the chance to steal Geno Smith's starting job. Vick was easy to lure.

Sanchez was in town last night so the Eagles could make sure his bad arm wasn't going to fall off when OTAs start next month. Sanchez joins 2013 fourth-round pick Matt Barkley as Nick Foles' backups.

Apparently, the Birds just can't have too many overrated USC quarterbacks with bad arms.

Sanchez didn't always have a broken wing.

He helped the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons; but, between the sideline hot dog, the allegations of sexual impropriety, the racy GQ photo shoot and the derriere dance, he has cast himself as a spotlight seeker. That spotlight can be cruel.

Sanchez now is, perhaps, best known for his involvement with one man's butt and another man's biceps.

Sanchez awkwardly fumbled off the backside of guard Brandon Moore on Thanksgiving in 2012; and, of course, on his right arm, Jets coach Rex Ryan has a tattoo of his wife wearing Sanchez' Jets jersey.

Scaring Jackson, dismissing Mathis and signing Sanchez all make for fine theater, but it's a dicey way to run a wagon train.

The Jackson situation makes the least sense; unless, of course, the Eagles' main goal was to scare him straight.

It is important to note that, at no point, did Jackson demand to renegotiate his deal. He was asked immediately after the season if he deserved more guaranteed money; he said yes.

So would you.

Then again, he intimated that he might hold out if he didn't get a new deal.

You probably wouldn't do that.

Rest assured, neither will he.

At 5-10 and 178 pounds, Jackson might not fit the extra-large profile Kelly prefers for his football players. But the threat of Jackson's speed and his ability to make deep catches - a rare ability, often overlooked - created a bubble of space between the opposition's linebackers and free safety, and virtually eliminated fear of frequent safety blitzes.

Teams clamped down on Jackson in the last five games of the regular season, and the Birds won four of them.

That bubble will disappear and those blitzes will be more frequent if Jackson is traded.

Maybe the Eagles have determined that the addition of scat-back Darren Sproles, the presence of the game's most versatile runner, LeSean McCoy, and a corps of Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and a Player To Be Drafted Later will be good enough. Maybe they believe that, with added weapons and with more plays schemed for the tight-end group, Jackson cannot replicate his 82 catches for 1,332 yards; and, so, his trade value will be diminished after the 2014 season, when he is 28.

Maybe they think that without an extension, he will hold out of training camp and ultimately will quit on the team again, the way he did in 2011 when he wanted a new deal.

Maybe they just think he isn't worth $12.75 million this season, and they are willing to absorb a $6 million salary-cap hit - the remainder of his amortized signing bonus, which will be accelerated to this season's cap. They would save $6.75 million against the cap this season. It's not unheard of. The Jets swallowed $4.8 million when they cut Sanchez and saved $8.3 million.

The Eagles know that Jackson, one of a legion of insecure divas populating the NFL, frets over the least hint of disrespect. They knew that floating his name in trade rumors and asserting through back channels that they could not secure even a third-round pick for him would drive him nuts.

Kelly, deftly speaking out of both sides of his clever mouth, on Wednesday both downplayed the importance of speaking with Jackson . . . and also said that it was important to speak with Jackson, before the owners' meetings convened this week.

Early this week, Jackson, via social media, seemed reassured by his conversation with Kelly.

On Wednesday, Kelly reiterated that no player is untouchable.

You know, just to keep D-Jax off balance.

Kelly employed no such doubletalk with Mathis; but then, knowing Mathis, mind games would never work.

He wanted more money. The Eagles offered to allow him to seek a trade. Neither really wants that. Kelly showered Mathis with praise as a player and as a man.

Surely, Kelly will do the same today for Sanchez, when the Eagles are expected to introduce him as Foles' high-profile backup. Kelly was not effusive concerning Vick, one of Jackson's chief handlers and his most precious ally.

Vick also is painfully honest, even about his friends.

In a recent New York radio interview, Vick implied that Jackson might need a seismic shock, such as a trade, to accelerate his maturation process.

That might be so.

But the Eagles might not survive the shock of his departure.

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch


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