The Eagles dropped a bombshell Friday afternoon when they released wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he caught 82 passes for 1332 yards and 9 TDs. The Eagles reportedly explored compensation from other teams around the league via trade, but Jackson’s outright release comes as a surprise.
"After careful consideration over this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson. The team informed him of his release today," the team said in a statement.
Jackson released the following statement:
First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly. I would also like to thank coach Andy Reed* for bringing me in.
Secondly, I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible.
I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need.
It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true . I look forward to working hard for my new team. God Bless.
* - Yes, that is how Andy Reid's name was spelled in the statement.
Some within the Eagles organization felt that Jackson was not a fit in the locker room culture that Chip Kelly was trying to cultivate. There were also other warning signs that Jackson could be on his way out as an Eagle. After urgently re-signing Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, and then releasing wide receiver Jason Avant, the Eagles’ salary cap number at the wide receiver position reached a total of over $25 million. That total was second only to the Miami Dolphins, and nearly double the league average.
Jackson was one of the most electrifying players in Eagles history. Since he entered the league, he was a big-play threat any time he touched the football. The most famous of his thrilling moments was a walk-off punt return against the New York Giants, during a game in which the Eagles scored 28 unanswered points at the MetLife Stadium, in what is now known as the Miracle at the Meadowlands II (or III).
Jackson had his best season in 2013 and was the Eagles’ most productive receiver, leading the team in the following categories:
With Jackson gone, the remaining wide receivers on the Eagles roster are Maclin, Cooper, Arrelious Benn, Brad Smith, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl, Will Murphy, B.J. Cunningham, and Ifeanyi Momah.
Maclin and Cooper will likely be the new projected starters, and both players come with concerns. Maclin is returning from an ACL tear suffered in training camp last year, while Cooper had just 46 career catches in three seasons before breaking out last season in Chip Kelly's spread offense. Jackson also thrived in Kelly's offense. Here are Jackson's per game numbers before Kelly's arrival in Philly, and after:
From an X's and O's standpoint, releasing Jackson doesn't make much sense. Opposing defenses had to respect his speed and ability to stretch the field, which opened up room in the trenches for the Eagles' #1 ranked rushing attack. From a pure football perspective, this move makes the team worse, and the notion that a Pro Bowl WR did not net any compensation whatsoever is staggering. However, it is difficult to know how much of a distraction Jackson was behind the scenes, from money, lifestyle, or personality perspectives.
Jackson was set to count for $12.5 million against the salary cap in 2014, which was the highest number on the team. According to OverTheCap.com, Jackson's release will save the Eagles $6.5 million in salary cap space, and $6.25 million will be "dead money."
The wide receiver group in the upcoming draft is considered by some to be extraordinarily deep and talented.
By cutting Jackson, to say the Eagles are taking an enormous risk is an understatement. Jackson is now free to explore his options as a free agent immediately. To be determined if this development comes back to bite the Eagles.
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