Well, we don't have to worry about whether the Eagles are going to trade DeSean Jackson now, or what they might get.
The team released Jackson this afternoon, shortly after NJ.com posted a story detailing some of Jackson's troubling associations with reputed Crips gang members. The team didn't say the release was related to the story, but the timing makes that pretty clear. If nothing else, the wildfire spread of the story ensured that an already uncertain trade market for the 27-year-old wideout was going to completely crash.
"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 Eagles said in a statement released at 12:46 p.m. An Eagles spokesman said there would be no further comment today.
A close Jackson associate who said he was with the receiver in California said that in the wake of the Eagles' announcement, Jackson is "just fine. Working out and upset about being tied to gangs when he's not. It's not his fault people mistake all his friends for gang members. He's never been arrested, and he's a great guy with a big heart who helps out too many people."
Jackson released the following statement to members of the media:
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.
* - That is how the word was spelled in Jackson's statement.
None of Jackson's $10.75 million salary this season was guaranteed, so he must sign elsewhere to make any money in 2014. That might be a difficult quest, in the post-Aaron Hernandez NFL, though the NJ.com story did not make any substantive accusations of criminal activity by Jackson himself, and if you looked close enough into the associates of every NFL player, you'd find other stars with questionable ties.
The bottom line, from talking to multiple sources over the past several weeks, is that the Eagles had off- and onfield concerns with Jackson, and that they felt the culture general manager Howie Roseman and coach Chip Kelly wanted to establish couldn't flourish with Jackson as a prominent face of the franchise.
Now that they are getting nothing for Jackson, the Eagles pretty much have to take a wideout very early in the May draft.
There isn't anything in the NJ.com story that would portend any sort of suspension from the league for Jackson, or anything a team necessarily couldn't live with -- that other teams haven't lived with, RE other players. (See, Ray Lewis.) But it's fair to infer that the Eagles have been concerned for a while about where Jackson's associations could lead, what sort of position he could put them in if they kept him.
The NJ.com story undoubtedly will lead to a closer investigation of Jackson's lifestyle, and that probably was a concern for the team.