Eagles general manager Howie Roseman met for 30 minutes with writers covering the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando and spoke about everything but the one thing anybody cares about.
“He's still under contract for us,” Roseman said. “Until there's anything to report on our players, that's where we are right now.”
The Eagles clearly are trying to unload Jackson, but why?
He’s 27, in his prime, coming off his best NFL season and one of the leading big-play receivers in the league.
“I think we were pretty clear about ... where we were going with this,” Roseman said. “I respect that you guys are here and have a job to do. That's why I'm here. But I also have a job to do.”
Asked why he's not answering questions about Jackson now after having done so in the recent past, Roseman said he's always kept such topics in-house.
"We felt like it’s important for all of our players to keep those between us, because we’re trying to build trust," he said. "We’re trying to build trust with our players and make sure they feel an ability to communicate with us.
"I don’t have my transcript, but I feel like that’s what I said at the time. So I feel that I’m being consistent about that and I would say the same thing about any other player."
Head coach Chip Kelly joked around questions about Jackson when he last spoke with writers, at the Maxwell Club banquet in Atlantic City last week, and Roseman was equally evasive Monday when he spoke with writers.
As reported two weeks ago by CSNPhilly.com Eagles insider Geoff Mosher, the Eagles have been considering trading Jackson for a variety of reasons but mainly because of his high salary. CSN’s Derrick Gunn reported that the Eagles were hoping to acquire at least a third-round pick for Jackson.
The most concrete admission that the Eagles are shopping Jackson came Sunday, when Jets owner Woody Johnson conceded at the owners’ meetings that the Jets were considering acquiring Jackson. He likely violated NFL tampering rules by mentioning Jackson by name.
Roseman wouldn't say whether the team viewed it as tampering.
"I haven’t read all the speculation, all the reports about everything. I’m trying keep my head down, really, at this moment. Trying to enjoy my family a little bit. Obviously I know there’s a lot of speculation that’s going on," Roseman said.
"I think for us, any conversations we have with teams, about teams – I think it just serves our point well with the relationships we have to keep those private."
The Eagles are already over their projected 2015 salary cap, and they’ll likely need to re-sign several members of their prized 2012 draft class, potentially including Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, to long-term deals.
Jackson is scheduled to earn $10.25 million in base salary this year plus a $250,000 workout bonus. Add in $2 million in pro-rated money from his original $10 million signing bonus, when he signed a five-year extension in 2012, and he has a cap number of $12.5 million.
Unloading Jackson would cost the Eagles $6 million against this year’s cap – the remaining pro-rated portions of his signing bonus – but would clear $12 million in cap space in both 2015 and 2016.
Roseman at the combine last month said this is one of the strongest wide receiver draft classes ever. He said there would be a receiver the Eagles like in every round and reiterated it Monday.
"No question," Roseman said. "It’s the best group at any position in the draft, in our opinion. ... When you look at the draft and just look at the position groups, I think it’d be hard to argue that it’s not the best position group."
So presumably the Eagles believe they can replace Jackson with at least one rookie and move forward with recently re-signed Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and a rookie class. Damaris Johnson, Brad Smith and Jeff Maehl are also under contract.
There has been speculation that Jackson -- because he’s only 5-foot-10, 170 pounds -- doesn’t have the size Kelly ideally likes in a wide receiver. There’s also been speculation that the Eagles were disappointed in Jackson for his sideline tirade during the Vikings game and for saying two days after the season he was hoping for a new contract.
But the Eagles haven’t addressed any of the speculation, electing instead to let the rumors continue to fly.
The Raiders are one team that has been rumored to be interested in Jackson. Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders’ general manager, was asked Monday about Jackson and declined to comment, but when the question was phrased in general terms -- would you consider adding that sort of big-name, big-money player -- he did comment to the San Jose Mercury News.
“As long as he’s a really good player that we think is really going to elevate our team,” he said. “I mean, big money, name is not the major issue. It’s what else he can bring to the table. Production is going to be a lot, but there’s many other characteristics that fall into that.”
If the Eagles do trade Jackson, his new team would have significantly lower cap figures for him, since his pro-rated signing bonus would not count against that team’s cap.
Since the Eagles drafted Jackson in the second round in 2008, he has 356 catches for 6,117 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’s eighth among NFL wide receivers in receiving yards during that span.
Jackson had career highs with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last year. In Eagles history, his 6,117 yards trails only Harold Carmichael (8,978) and Mike Quick (6,464).
CSNPhilly.com contributor Jeff Shain assisted with this story.