DeSean Jackson will get at least two opportunities this season to prove the Eagles made a mistake by cutting him.
Jackson, who was released by the Eagles last Friday, signed a contract with the NFC East rival Washington Redskins on Wednesday. The deal is believed to be worth $24 million, including $16 million guaranteed.
“(Playing the Eagles) will definitely be emotional,” Jackson said Wednesday during a conference call. “I’ll definitely be very excited. But every game will be a big game. I’m all about moving forward, and I’m very happy to be with the Washington Redskins.”
Jackson, 27, agreed to terms on the contract late Tuesday night after spending Monday and Tuesday with new Redskins coach Jay Gruden and his coaching staff. He also hung out with wide receiver Pierre Garcon and cornerback DeAngelo Hall on Monday night.
Jackson was also recruited by Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who met with Jackson in Los Angeles last weekend after the Eagles had released Jackson.
“I understand (Jackson’s) drive and competitiveness to win,” Griffin said Wednesday in a text message to ESPN.com. “Always doing it for his dad and now doing it for this city. ... Our team and this city will be there for him.”
Jackson lost his father, Bill, to pancreatic cancer in 2009 and created the DeSean Jackson Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. He has also been very active in visiting local schools as part of his anti-bullying campaign and plans on continuing to do so with schools in the Washington, D.C. area.
His image took some hits in the last few weeks, however. Just a few hours before the Eagles released him without explanation — and they have yet to offer one — a report surfaced on NJ.com suggesting that Jackson had gang ties. Jackson has vehemently denied it, as have friends and former coaches from his hometown of Los Angeles.
Rumors also began to surface that Eagles coach Chip Kelly had grown weary of Jackson’s inconsistent practice and study habits. Jackson was once deactivated for a game by former coach Andy Reid in 2011 for missing a meeting the day before a game against Arizona.
Kelly and Jackson talked last week and supposedly had a productive conversation, but he was cut a few days later.
“Honestly, I’m not going to address (the NJ.com story),” Jackson said. “But people who really know me know that I’m a team guy and that I go out and put everything on the line every time I step on the field.
“The way everything went down has made me very humble. It was a humbling experience to be released like that as a guy who’s at the peak of his career. I’m going to do everything I need to do to be a great wide receiver who is respected by people in this league.”
Jackson is already viewed as one of the league’s most dynamic players, a versatile threat who is dangerous as both a wide receiver and punt returner.
That talent prompted at least nine teams to reach out to Jackson’s agent, Joel Segal. Cleveland and San Francisco were believed to be the top contenders in addition to the Redskins.
Washington immediately surged to the forefront as a place where he would feel valued and welcomed.
“They embraced me right away,” Jackson said. “RGIII and DeAngelo Hall reached out to me and made me feel like they had a home for me here. DeAngelo Hall really stepped up to the plate and called me right after I was released. Robert Griffin embraced me as soon as I was released and said he would do everything he could to get me here. And I’m happy to be in a city that has already done a great job of reaching out and making me feel appreciated.”
Jackson will be part of a talented offense that will feature Griffin, Garcon, former Arizona wide receiver Andre Roberts and running back Alfred Morris.
Prior to replacing Mike Shanahan as Redskins coach, Gruden was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, where he worked with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Redskin fan and a part of this team because the firepower that we have with all our guys,” Griffin said in his text message. “Everyone needs to understand that we haven’t won anything yet, and these next few months will be about building those bonds and chemistry so that we can.”
Even without Jackson, the Eagles still have plenty of talent on offense. Quarterback Nick Foles was the NFL’s top-rated passer last season and was the Pro Bowl MVP. Running back LeSean McCoy won the NFL rushing title. Left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Evan Mathis both made the Pro Bowl. Tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz both had solid seasons in 2013.
There are questions about the wide receivers. Riley Cooper had a great season in 2013, but he must show he can repeat that success. Jeremy Maclin missed all of last season with a knee injury. Jason Avant was released last month, leaving the Eagles without a proven slot receiver.
Jackson couldn’t care less.
“Chip Kelly did a great job and had a great year,” he said. “But I’m moving forward, and I’m happy to be in Washington. I’ve been keeping an eye on what Jay Gruden was doing in Cincinnati. I think his offense is very similar to what I learned in coach Reid’s offense, so I think this will be a great fit and a smooth transition for me.
“Whatever my role is, I’ll be happy to do it. I’m just happy to be here and I’m ready to do whatever I can to help this team win as many games as possible.”
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