ORLANDO - The question posed to Chip Kelly was simple: "Do you want DeSean on the team?" The answer was complicated, as much has been during DeSean Jackson's murky offseason with the Eagles.
"I like DeSean," Kelly said Wednesday at the NFL's annual meetings. "DeSean did a really nice job for us. But we're always going to do what's best for the organization."
The lukewarm endorsement only fueled more speculation about Jackson's future. Kelly was complimentary of Jackson throughout the one-hour roundtable interview, although he never committed to keeping Jackson on the roster despite ample opportunity.
Kelly's session was the most anticipated of any NFL coach this week, even prompting Kelly to mutter in disbelief about the audience that assembled to hear him address Jackson. His answers were more expansive than those from general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie during this week's event. But the team's brain trust still left here without offering any clearer insight as to why a 27-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler would even be the subject of trade conversations.
"I don't know why it's a discussion," Kelly said. "That's a question for [the media]. I had a conversation with him. He knows where he stands with us. I know where I stand with him."
Kelly called Jackson on Monday. The conversation left Jackson telling his teammates he believed he would return to Philadelphia, according to a Tuesday Inquirer report. Kelly would not divulge what was discussed with Jackson. He said those conversations will always be kept private.
"We've had a good conversation and we're always going to do what's best for the football team," Kelly said. "But I think he knows where we are, I know where he is, so I feel very comfortable about it. But my conversations with him aren't things I think I need to have a conversation with anybody else about."
When Kelly was asked how Jackson fit within the culture of the team, Kelly said Jackson "did a good job." He referenced Jackson playing every game, practicing every day, and confessed to having no issues with Jackson.
Kelly said he got along well with Jackson last season. He did not sound like he had a problem with Jackson documenting offseason adventures on social media. And Kelly even complimented Jackson's work ethic, saying Jackson did everything asked of him last season.
When presented that way, it does not describe a player Kelly would be ready to kick out of the NovaCare Complex. Yet the ambiguity he left open about Jackson's status was not a good sign for those who own Jackson's Eagles jersey.
Kelly maintained that the Darren Sproles acquisition was unrelated to Jackson. He appreciated Jackson's skill set, although he does not think any one player is essential to the offense.
"I don't think our offense has ever been predicated on one player," Kelly said. "It's never been about just one guy, and I think that's why we had diversity."
Kelly said he has not paid attention to the reports of Jackson's future, yet the impetus for their communication was because he knew reports of trade speculation existed. Kelly did not answer why it took him so long to get in touch with Jackson.