In the end, Chip Kelly didn't want DeSean Jackson on the Eagles

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 30, 2014

DeSean Jackson didn't change; the Eagles did when Chip Kelly became head coach.

The Eagles knew about Jackson's alleged gang connections, his problems with authority, and his locker-room dramas long before Friday, when they released the wide receiver. They knew what they were getting when they drafted him in 2008.

So for the team to imply that his off-the-field behavior or an NJ.com report that detailed his alleged connection to reputed members of the Los Angeles-based Crips gang had anything to do with the wide receiver's release would be disingenuous.

The reasons the Eagles cut ties with Jackson after six seasons were many, but the overriding motive was a simple one: Kelly didn't want him on the team anymore. The Eagles coach has yet to explain the decision - nor did anyone from the organization on Friday - but Kelly's lower tolerance for Jackson than Andy Reid had is believed to be the primary explanation for why the team started shopping the 27-year-old Pro Bowl receiver on March 1.

After no trade offers, according to multiple NFL sources, the Eagles were faced with only two prospects - releasing Jackson or bringing back a player Kelly didn't want. The NJ.com report provided the team with the perfect opportunity to soften criticism for cutting a superstar in the prime of his career while getting nothing in return.

So rather than release Jackson on Wednesday, when they initially were contacted by NJ.com, they waited two days and cut him less than an hour after the story was posted. It's fair to wonder how much earlier the Eagles knew of the story and whether they were the impetus for its writing.

Sources within the organization are cited in the story as being concerned about Jackson's association with a reputed gang member who was connected to a homicide in 2010 - two years before the Eagles gave Jackson a new five-year, $47 million contract and four years before they ultimately released him.

The Eagles employ a security detail - "fixers" as they are sometimes known - whose job is almost exclusively digging up information on players. Jackson's association with reputed Crips gang members had been commonly known for years.

Releasing Jackson after the story was posted also made it seem as if the Eagles came to the realization that they would now get nothing in return once teams were made aware of the connection. Every team, though, already knew of Jackson's reputation when they scouted the first-round talent before the 2008 draft.

Jackson made strong denials in a statement, saying that his release had nothing "to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off the field. I would like to make it clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang."

With the timing of the release and the Eagles' refusal to answer any questions about it, they have shifted the onus onto Jackson.

Teams will be reluctant to sign him now because of the public relations hit they will take.

Six teams have reportedly reached out to Jackson's agent, Joel Segal, but it's difficult to see him receiving anything near the value one would expect based on his 2013 production (82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns).

Other agents and players around the league are surely watching how the Eagles have allowed Jackson to twist in the wind.

The Eagles are well within their rights to jettison Jackson. Kelly is attempting to foster a new culture at the NovaCare Complex, and he had deemed Jackson expendable. But the selfishness, the lateness, and the immaturity were there long before Kelly arrived last January.

Two Eagles players who requested anonymity said that Jackson wasn't a clubhouse cancer, but he had become a distraction. They would not offer specifics. Both questioned whether his loss would hurt the offense and opined that he wouldn't be difficult to replace.

Jackson slipped into the second round of the 2008 draft. Reid had shied away from players with behavioral red flags for years, but he needed an explosive receiver and, with owner Jeffrey Lurie's endorsement, rolled the dice.

By 2010, Jackson had become one of the league's most electrifying players, but his play began to slip in 2011 because he wanted, but would not receive, a new contract. It was during that year that Los Angeles police called the Eagles to inform them that they planned to question Jackson in connection with a homicide, according to NJ.com.

A Jackson acquaintance, Theron Shakir, was one of two reputed Crips members suspected in the killing of 14-year-old Taburi Watson. Shakir was charged but eventually acquitted. Marques Binns was convicted.

The Eagles had no comment when NJ.com originally contacted them about the 2011 call from the Los Angeles police, but a team source later said that "current front-office members had been unaware of Jackson's links to an alleged killer" in the report.

Jackson received the new contract he had fretted over in March 2012 with Reid as head coach and Howie Roseman as general manager.

The Eagles' silence on the whole issue has been troublesome. There was an ESPN report that the team's lawyers advised against making public statements. It is believed there would be no need for lawyers unless the Eagles were being careful about opening themselves up to slander allegations.

It wouldn't be hard to explain. Kelly didn't want Jackson, so he was released after they couldn't find a trade partner.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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