DeSean Jackson, an electrifying and enigmatic Eagles wide receiver for six years, is done in Philadelphia.
The Eagles, tired of Jackson’s Hollywood lifestyle and unwilling to pay him $30 million over the next three years, outright released the three-time Pro Bowl wideout on Friday, severing ties with one of the NFL’s most feared playmakers after his best season.
The announcement came with a team 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."
The announcement of his release came shortly after the posting of an NJ.com story detailing Jackson's connections to two Los Angeles gang members. The report quotes a team source as saying, "They are concerned about having him around the younger players."
Jackson released his own statement (see story), via ESPN's Adam Schefter, in which he denied any connection to a gang:
"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."
Jackson, who turned 27 last December, is a free agent for the first time in his pro career. Last year, his 1,339 yards ranked second-most in franchise history for a single season, his 6,117 yards rank fourth in team history and his four punt-return touchdowns are the most ever by an Eagle.
His 12 career touchdowns of at least 50 yards are tied for the most among active NFL players with Calvin Johnson and his 17.2 yards-per-catch average is second-highest among players with at least 300 receptions.
But Jackson caused as many headaches for management and coaches as he did for opposing defensive coordinators. He lobbied for a new contract less than 48 hours after the team’s first-round playoff loss and just two years into a five-year extension.
More red flags followed when police reported large sums of money and guns stolen from his South Philadelphia home about a week after the season.
The end of Jackson’s tenure became a forgone conclusion Wednesday when coach Chip Kelly, asked directly if he wanted the wideout back in 2014, only said he liked Jackson and said the team's “best interest” would determine its move.
The Eagles, who tried to deal Jackson several times as far back as 2011, wanted him off the team so badly that they were willing take a $6 million cap hit in 2014 to rid him from the roster. Jackson’s departure leaves the Eagles with just two receivers -- Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin -- who have at least 60 career receptions and six career touchdowns.
Jackson’s transgressions weren’t limited to his contract remarks or the home invasion. Multiple sources told CSNPhilly.com that Jackson’s on-field antics and showboat lifestyle irked coach Kelly, who has little tolerance for players who aren’t totally sold on the coach’s unique program.
Jackson, whose prima donna reputation followed him from the streets of Los Angeles to the University of California and then to South Philly, was known for being hot-headed and enigmatic. During a game against the Vikings last December, Jackson needed to be restrained from teammates after a verbal altercation with receivers coach Bob Bicknell.
Jackson’s troubled behavior predates the Kelly regime. Sources said former coach Andy Reid nearly reached his threshold several times with Jackson, but Reid continuously gave second chances to his star receiver as the pressure to win a Super Bowl mounted toward the end of Reid’s 14-year tenure.
Last offseason, Jackson founded a hip-hop label and appeared produced a music video with rapper Snoop Dogg. He’s been romantically linked to a porn star among other celebrities and has been spotted flashing gang signs in pictures on social media.
Jackson often uses his Instagram account to share snapshots of excessive bar and nightclub tabs and to promote his rap label.
Even before Jackson was released, former Eagles quarterback Mike Vick, who spent five seasons as Jackson’s teammate, suggested that Jackson’s immaturity spoiled the receiver’s shot to stick around under Kelly.
"I think sometimes it takes a change in your life to understand really what needs to happen, and the course that needs to be set," Vick, now with the Jets, said March 25 on SNY's Daily News Live. "Maybe it's time for a change for DeSean to help him understand the maturation process of his young NFL life and his personal life.”
Shortly after the release, Eagles center Jason Kelce tweeted: We just made an extremely unpopular decision, but I couldn't be more excited and happy with where this organization is going!! #FlyEaglesFly
Even without the league’s premier home run hitter, the Eagles are loaded with offensive firepower, including LeSean McCoy, the reigning NFL rushing champion, and promising second-year tight end Zach Ertz. The team traded for versatile halfback Darren Sproles to add another dimension to the offense.
But they no longer have the pure speed threat that Jackson offered, a weapon who opened the middle of the field by commanding so much attention over the top.
Only Harold Carmichael, Pete Retzlaff and Mike Quick have more receiving yards in their Eagles careers than Jackson, who started 86 of the 87 games he’s played since the team drafted him in the second round out of Cal in 2008.
Jackson tied a personal best in 2014 with nine touchdown catches and his 1,332 receiving yards ranked second-most in team history for a single season.
In 2009, his second season, he became the first player in league history to make the Pro Bowl at two positions (receiver, return specialist). That year, he became just the third player in NFL history with at least eight touchdowns of 50 or more yards.
Jackson became one of just five players in league history to have at least 900 receiving yards in his first five seasons and he holds the Eagles’ record for receiving yards through a player’s first six seasons.
In 2010, Jackson became the first player in 69 years to have at least one receiving, rushing and return touchdown in each of his first three seasons. Richard Todd, the only other player to accomplished the feat, did it from 1939-1941.