The Eagles released DeSean Jackson on Friday after growing concerns about the Pro Bowl wide receiver's off-field behavior and the effect it would have in the locker room. The team felt the issues surrounding Jackson made him virtually untradable, The Inquirer has learned.
It ended Jackson's six years in Philadelphia after weeks of speculation that the 27-year-old would be traded despite a spectacular season last year under Chip Kelly. It comes during an offseason that began with an odd burglary at Jackson's South Philadelphia home by persons unknown.
The decision was announced less than one hour after NJ.com published a report detailing Jackson's alleged association with reputed Los Angeles gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010. In a statement, Jackson denied he is a gang member and called reports "misleading and unfounded."
The Eagles were not made aware of the report until Wednesday, and did not release Jackson entirely because of the report. Rather, the attempt to trade the star player was because of mounting issues the team had with Jackson.
The Eagles wondered how Jackson's off-field problems would affect the locker room. They were worried about how Jackson fit with the team, and had grown concerned about his general demeanor, both on and off the field.
The decision to move on from Jackson dates back to conversations after the season ended, and the team made an aggressive push this month. The new information, along with what they already knew of Jackson, made the Eagles fear there was more they did not know.
No Eagles official was available for comment - from owner Jeffrey Lurie to general manager Howie Roseman to coach Chip Kelly.
The team instead released a statement: "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."
Jackson released a statement that thanked the Eagles, Eagles fans, and the city of Philadelphia. He also specifically thanked Andy Reid for drafting him.
"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," Jackson said. "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."
Jackson went on to tout his community involvement, and said he should not need to defend himself from rumors.
There have been questions about his lifestyle this offseason. They swirled after Jackson's mother discovered that his South Philadelphia home on Pietro Way, not far from the Eagles' practice facility, had been burglarized while Jackson was in Miami on Jan. 10.
In interviews Friday, police said they were not investigating a false report.
"There is no indication at all that he did anything wrong or that he lied," said Lt. John Stanford, a police department spokesman. The incident, he said, is being investigated as a burglary.
There were no signs of forced entry, but a security camera inside the house was found knocked to the ground, and Jackson's bedroom door was open. Jackson's mother told police she had left it locked. Jackson later told police that $20,000 in cash was stolen as well as a 9mm handgun and jewelry valued at about $125,000.
Philadelphia police sources said Friday that, despite the rumors, there was no evidence that Jackson had lied to police, or filed a fraudulent report.
"We have no reason to think he did anything," said one department source with knowledge of the investigation. "There is nothing coming from us."
Police have reviewed footage from security cameras, and submitted items from the house for possible fingerprints, but have so far come up with nothing, the sources said.
And with no signs of forced entry, they have interviewed friends of Jackson who regularly visit the house, but have identified no suspects in the case.
The Eagles bolstered their offensive depth chart this offseason, which could help make up for the loss of Jackson in 2014. Jackson, one of the fastest and most dynamic players in the NFL, had 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Eagles re-signed Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and traded for Darren Sproles. They're bullish about the wide receiver prospects in May's draft. Kelly said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings that the offense is not predicated on one player.
Neither Lurie nor Roseman would answer questions about Jackson at the meetings.
One of many unknowns is exactly when the Eagles soured on Jackson. In March 2012, they rewarded him with a five-year, $48 million contract extension. However, there is almost no more guaranteed money remaining, which is one reason reporters asked Jackson whether he wanted a new contract at the end of the season. He said he felt deserving.
The Eagles take a salary cap hit of $6 million this season. Jackson will not receive the $10.5 million due.
DeSean Jackson's Eagles career ended in a sour way on Friday, but his six seasons were filled with highlights. Here were the top five moments of Jackson's tenure in Philadelphia:
Dec. 19, 2010 at
New York Giants
Jackson completed a stunning fourth-quarter Eagles comeback with a 65-yard touchdown on a punt return as the clock expired to seal an improbable 38-31 win and spur the Eagles to an NFC East title. It was the Miracle at the Meadowlands for a new generation of Eagles fans.
Jan. 18, 2009 at
After reaching the NFC championship, Jackson's 62-yard fourth-quarter touchdown reception gave the Eagles a one-point lead and looked like it would send them to the Super Bowl. He initially bobbled the catch, and it would be more memorable if the Cardinals did not win the game.
Dec. 12, 2010 at
One week before the Giants game, Jackson hauled in a 91-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown to give the Eagles a seven-point lead in a 30-27 victory. Jackson's 210 receiving yards remain a career high.
Dec. 13, 2009 at Carolina Panthers
Jackson opened his second NFL season with an 85-yard punt return in a 38-10 season-opening win. It was his longest punt return touchdown.
Nov. 15, 2010 at Washington Redskins
The Eagles' unforgettable 59-28 win on Monday Night Football will be remembered because of Michael Vick's performance, but it was Jackson's 88-yard touchdown reception that gave the Eagles their first of eight TDs.
Wide Receiver Depth Chart
Without DeSean Jackson, the Eagles' depth chart changes. The team uses its tight ends and running backs as weapons, but these are the players who remain at wide receiver:
The biggest beneficiary of Jackson's exit is Maclin, who is primed to be the Eagles' No. 1 receiver and is their most versatile and complete option.
After his best season as a pro, Cooper scored a new contract with the Eagles and must prove that he can build off his 835-yard campaign.
The former Oregon standout was active for all 16 games last season, although he's more of a role player than a difference-maker at wide receiver.
The former second-round pick can tantalize with his talent and size, but he cannot be traded with his injury history. There will be opportunity to impress this summer.
After showing promise in 2012, Johnson fizzled in his second season and must fight to make the roster.
Once a college quarterback, Smith was acquired by the Eagles during the 2013 season. They like his versatility on offense and special teams.
Also: Most B.J. Cunningham's two seasons in Philadelphia have been spent on the practice squad. . . . Will Murphy, another former Oregon player, spent last season on the practice squad and appears to be a long shot to make the roster. . . . Ifeanyi Momah, at 6-foot-7, has size that excites fans, but he had an uninspiring preseason in 2013.
Howie Roseman gushed about the wide-receiver depth in this draft. There could be nearly a dozen receivers taken in the first three rounds. Here are the top options:
Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The consensus top receiver in the draft, Watkins won't make it near the Eagles, who pick 22d.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
At 6-5, 231 pounds and only 20 years old, Evans oozes with potential and could go off the board in the top 15.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Benjamin is 6-5 and 240 pounds, with college production that will make him an appealing option.
Marqise Lee, USC
In two games against Chip Kelly's teams at Oregon, Lee had 20 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns.
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
The 5-10, 189-pound speedster could remind Eagles fans of Jackson on the field.
Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
A productive all-around player, Beckham could help in the slot and in the return game.
Allen Robinson, Penn State
The former Nittany Lions standout has good size (6-2, 220 pounds) and leaping ability.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Another big receiver, Matthews is polished - he finished his college career as the SEC's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.
Get all the latest Eagles news as it happens on The Inquirer's Eagles website, inquirer.com/bev, or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane @zberm
Staff writer Mike Newall contributed to this article.