Cutting Jackson a low blow by the Eagles

Posted: March 31, 2014

YOU THOUGHT Joe Banner was harsh?

Chip Kelly makes Banner look like Mother Teresa.

The Eagles sent a clear message when they cut DeSean Jackson yesterday:

No matter how well you play, no matter how professionally you act, if we believe you are overpaid we will get rid of you.

And we will do anything to protect our image in doing so.

Just hours after a story published yesterday on nj.com that tenuously connected Jackson to the Crips gang in his hometown of Los Angeles, the Eagles saw a chance to minimize the public outrage.

So, they released the best receiver on the 2013 team and the most explosive player in team history.

They refused to comment on the report . . . which, or course, indirectly, and perhaps unfairly, validates the report.

So what if releasing Jackson now casts him as a thug?

So what if it eliminates his chances to earn what he's worth . . . maybe forever? He is 27, has played six seasons and looks fit enough to play six more.

Except now he'll be the Gangbanger, forever tainted.

The Eagles could not care less.

They could have held on to him for a couple of weeks. They could have stood by him, could have denied any half-truths or mistruths that were published.

Instead, they cast the entire screed as gospel truth.

This isn't family. It is never family. This is dirty, dirty business.

The rest of the team better understand that.

This team shed Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas and Jeremiah Trotter, but in those Banner days, it was at least honest and honorable about the moves.

This time, they ruined a young man who has spent much of his life avoiding ruin.

The Birds will save a boatload of cash by jettisoning D-Jax, and that's all that matters to them.

They also will lose the NFL's most dangerous receiver, one who froze safeties in their boots, one who gave defensive coordinators sweaty nightmares in team hotels.

Jackson's presence opened up huge holes for teammates to run into and through. His presence meant an extra beat for the team's quarterbacks - a beat that young Nick Foles needed quite a bit.

Still, Jackson's 5-10 and 178 pounds of surly narcissism never was the perfect fit for this team.

He didn't fit the prototype for Kelly's perfect NFL receiver; and, like many NFL receivers, he was high maintenance.

Jackson required a preseason meeting with Kelly to assuage his ego.

He was involved in a sideline dustup with an assistant coach during the season.

After the season, he agreed with a questioner that, yes, he deserved a reworked contract with more guaranteed money, and he intimated that he might hold out of training camp.

And this was a quiet year for Jackson.

The nj.com report cited missed meetings, a poor relationship with Kelly and laziness as reasons why the Eagles let him go. Additionally, the report said the Eagles were troubled by Jackson's alleged association with the Crips.

Kelly said Wednesday during the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla., that he had no issues with Jackson's professionalism this season.

Typically, and sadly, Jackson offered an awkward rebuttal to the nj.com report that denied any gang ties.

If the Eagles had a problem with Jackson's loyalties and associations, they weren't worried enough to cut ties with him earlier, when the blood was still fresh on the pavement.

Instead, the Eagles paid him $18 million in 2012 and 2013, $15 million of which essentially was guaranteed.

This was after two incidents tenuously associated Jackson with assumed gang-related violence in his hometown of Los Angeles.

Yes, the Eagles were being run by Joe Banner and Andy Reid when Jackson signed his deal. Both were gone before the 2013 season, but cutting Jackson in 2013 would have been a $12 million salary-cap hit: $4 million in guaranteed salary and $8 million in accelerated signing bonus.

Besides, before the 2013 season the Eagles, had no idea all that they had at receiver. Jeremy Maclin and Jackson were returning as starters, and when Maclin was lost for the season after an ACL injury in training camp, they had only untested Riley Cooper and aging Jason Avant. Cooper became embroiled in his own controversy, when he was caught on video using a racial slur in reference to a black security guard at Kenny Chesney concert.

Cooper shined in his first season as a starter and earned a new contract.

Avant is gone, but Maclin has recovered.

The cap hit is a straight $6 million, with a cap savings of $6.5 million and a cash savings of Jackson's $10.5 million salary and workout bonus.

The draft is rich in receivers.

Now, so is the free-agent market.

As long as you don't mind a player who occasionally throws up gang signs and has a couple of questionable buddies.

The nj.com story detailed Jackson's tenuous association with the Crips gang. At one point, it said police have no hard evidence that Jackson belongs to the gang. The same story absolved Jackson from association with any crime committed by a Crips member.

In fact, Theron Shakir, the Jackson associate charged with murder in 2011, was acquitted. A spokeswoman from the Los Angeles district attorney's office quoted in the story definitively said Jackson was in no way part of the case. The detective on the case who interviewed Jackson said he cooperated.

A year later, NJ.com reported, police said a murder took place outside of a Los Angeles building owned or leased by a a member of Jackson's family; the Daily News has since learned it was rented by Jackson's sister.

Documents belonging to Jackson were found inside the building. This time, the same detective never managed to contact Jackson, the report said.

The story references Jackson's unwise habit of flashing gang signs in photographs that appear on social media, as well as an incident in September when, in a game, Jackson flashed a gang sign at a Washington player. It also draws a connection between Jackson and the Crips by the unusual spelling of Jackson's record label, Jaccpot Records.

The nj.com story also mentions an incident in September 2009 when, after being stopped for driving with tinted windows, Jackson was arrested for possession of marijuana, disturbing the peace and driving with tinted windows. The pot and tinted-window charges were dropped, the story said, when Jackson pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace.

The story does not say in which state or municipality the traffic stop was made, or which authorities handled the case.

There is no mention of whether the team or league, by then run by Sheriff Roger Goodell, investigated the arrest.

Legal issues aside, there is a perception that Jackson's aloof, dismissive personality might infect other players on the team. That is a misperception, and it rings laughably hollow.

Anyone who has spent time in the Eagles' locker room understood that Jackson operated in his own, little diva bubble. He was not taken seriously as a leader or as a role model. Petulant and shallow, he was employed for his talents, not his character.

There are plenty of character guys: Connor Barwin, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, DeMeco Ryans, Brent Celek. They police the room. Young quarterback Nick Foles might be added to that list, eventually.

Jackson did no harm.

For that matter, in 2013 we saw D-Jax 2.0, a more fit and more functional player, eager to toe the company line as the company's structure changed.

The old version held out in 2011, quit on the team during games that season and was suspended one game for missing meetings. The team was worse for his actions, but the team hardly was infected by them.

Consider: Maclin, entering the final year of his rookie contract, could have held out in 2013. He probably should have; as it turns out, the worst happened. He was injured and rendered unable to prepare for the free-agent market.

But Maclin did not hold out. It is not in his makeup to do such a thing.

Cutting Jackson was not nothing but saving money on a player who the team believes does not fit the salary structure - a move that would be wildly unpopular if not justified by some other distracting news.

This timing was deviously perfect.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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