The Philadelphia Eagles decided Friday that wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s off-the-field concerns outweighed his on-the-field accomplishments.
After finding no takers on the trade market, the team released the three-time Pro Bowler the same day a story on NJ.com suggested Jackson had relationships with reputed members of the Crips street gang in Los Angeles.
“After careful consideration over this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson,” the Eagles said in a statement. “The team informed him of his release today.”
Eagles coach Chip Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated through the team that they would have no further comment regarding Jackson.
According to the NJ.com report, Jackson, 27, has a business relationship with Theron Shakir, a reputed member of the Crips who has recorded rap songs for Jaccpot Records, a label owned by Jackson.
In 2012, Jackson’s name surfaced as part of an investigation into a gang-related murder that occurred outside a Los Angeles business where a party had taken place. Jackson was never considered a suspect in the crime, according to the story.
Despite being only 5-foot-10 inches tall and weighing 175 pounds, Jackson has been the Eagles’ best receiver and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Since 2008, he has 21 receiving touchdowns of 30 yards or more, which is tied with Miami’s Mike Wallace for the most in the league.
Jackson was known earlier in his career for his punt return ability. He was the first player in NFL history to score on a punt return on the last play of a game when he took a kick 65 yards for a touchdown to help the Eagles defeat the New York Giants 38-31 in December 2010.
Jackson enjoyed the most productive season of his career last season. He led the team and had career highs with 82 receptions for 1,339 yards to go with nine receiving touchdowns and five 100-yard receiving games. His 1,332 yards ranked second in team history behind Mike Quick’s 1,409 in 1983. Jackson has 356 career receptions for 6,117 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Jackson, who spent the past six seasons with the Eagles, released a statement in which he vehemently denied being involved in any gang-related activities.
“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,” Jackson said in the statement.
“I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. ... 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.”
Jackson was also in the news in January after he told police his South Philadelphia home was robbed of more than $175,000 in cash and jewelry, along with a handgun. No arrests were made in the case.
Not all of Jackson’s off-the-field activities have been controversial. He has long been involved in charity work in the Philadelphia and Los Angeles areas. He created the DeSean Jackson Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer research after losing his father, Bill, to the disease in 2009.
His DeSean Jackson Foundation started an anti-bullying campaign a year ago, when Jackson discovered that one of his fans, 13-year-old Nadin Khoury, had been the victim of bullying. Jackson surprised Khoury on the set of “The View” and also took him to the ESPY Awards last summer.
Jackson doesn’t figure to have to wait long to join a new team.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday that several teams contacted Jackson’s agent, Joel Segal, within 30 minutes of his release. Possible suitors could include Carolina, the New York Jets and Kansas City. The Panthers need a top-flight wide receiver after releasing veteran Steve Smith.
The Jets’ coaching staff includes offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who coached Jackson from 2008-12 as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. In addition, former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who was Jackson’s teammate for five seasons, just signed with the Jets last week.
At the NFL meetings Sunday in Orlando, Fla., Jets owner Woody Johnson said, “We’re looking at a number of players, including DeSean.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid selected Jackson while coach of the Eagles in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft. The two had an uneasy relationship. Reid suspended Jackson for one game in 2011 after he missed a pregame meeting, chastised the wide receiver for a lack of effort after a 2010 game in Chicago and saw Jackson stage a 12-day holdout in 2011.
But Reid also saw Jackson blossom into one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers as both a wide receiver and punt returner.
Reid was still the Eagles’ coach when the team signed Jackson to a five-year, $51 million contract before the 2012 season.
“I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly,” Jackson said as part of his statement Friday. “I would also like to thank coach Andy Reid for bringing me in.”
The Eagles started to pursue trade possibilities with other teams last month. Kelly spoke with Jackson for the first time since the end of the 2013 season earlier this week. Kelly denied the suggestion that Jackson wanted a new contract.
“I like DeSean,” Kelly said this week. “DeSean did a nice job for us (last season). But we’re always going to do what’s best for the organization. I’ve talked to DeSean. We had a good conversation. He knows where we are, and I know where he is.”
Jackson was encouraged enough by the chat to think that he was going to stay with the Eagles.
According to ESPN, Kelly called Jackson personally Friday to tell him he was being released.
The departures of Jackson and Jason Avant, who was released this month, leave the Eagles with a receiving corps that includes Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl and Arrelious Benn, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Running back Darren Sproles, who was acquired in a trade with New Orleans, can also line up at receiver.
“We just made an extremely unpopular decision, but I couldn’t be more excited and happy with where this organization is going!!,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said Friday on Twitter. “Good luck with whatever team you end up with DeseanJackson10.”
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