Kelly, Eagles better be right on DeSean decision

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Kelly, Eagles better be right on DeSean decision

They better know what they’re doing here.

The Eagles just got rid of one of the NFL’s most electrifying players in the prime of his career without getting anything in return, apparently for the crime of choosing his friends incorrectly.

DeSean Jackson has never been arrested for anything more serious than marijuana possession and driving with tinted windows, according to the NJ.com report, and those charges came five years ago and were eventually dropped. He’s never tested positive for a banned substance. What’s the worst thing he’s done in six years with the Eagles? He was suspended for one game in 2011 for missing a team meeting.

What he has done is make big plays more often than anybody in the 81-year history of the franchise. Game after game, year after year.

Jackson grew up in a section of Los Angeles where he was surrounded every day by gangs and crime. He rose up above all that to become a three-time Pro Bowl receiver with a charity foundation that raises money to fight pancreatic cancer, which claimed his dad.

And so far, the worst thing I’ve learned about Jackson is that he has close friends who are active gang members. Which really means that he’s still friends with the people he grew up with in L.A.

Jackson is a young African-American man from Compton who grew up around other young African-American men from Compton, and last time I checked, that’s not a crime.

Anybody care to take a guess what percentage of professional athletes have friends or associates who have gang ties? It’s not an insignificant number. Guilt by association isn’t a reason to cut somebody.

Now, obviously there could be a lot more out there that we haven’t heard. Stuff the Eagles know that they haven’t shared. Things Chip Kelly saw that the rest of us didn’t see. Charges or allegations that haven’t been revealed yet by authorities.

But if Jackson was such a distraction, he distracted his team last year all the way to a 10-6 season, an NFC East title and a playoff berth, and he distracted himself all the way to 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.

Distracted himself to a career year.

Jackson is such a bad influence on his teammates that in four of the five seasons he’s played at least 12 games, the Eagles have reached the playoffs.

So Kelly will move on without his top playmaker, and that leaves the Eagles awfully thin at wide receiver.

There’s Riley Cooper, who had a couple big games in the middle of last season, but averaged 18.6 yards the first five games of the year, 49.7 receiving yards the last seven games of the year and had 11 games with 53 or fewer yards.

There’s Jeremy Maclin, who’s been a steady contributor when healthy but doesn’t have nearly the game-breaking ability that Jackson has.

Jackson has 18 career touchdowns of 50 yards or more. Maclin has four.

And there’s … Ifeanyi Momah, B.J. Cunningham, Brad Smith, Will Murphy, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson and Jeff Maehl.

In other words, there’s Maclin and Cooper.

And if you want to include hybrid running back Darren Sproles in the equation, feel free. But keep in mind that Sproles averaged 8.5 yards per catch last year, and Jackson averaged nearly twice that.

The Eagles have reminded us all offseason that this is a historic wide receiver draft, so apparently that’s where they plan to replace Jackson.

So maybe you get a stud and maybe you don’t. Maybe you get Freddie Mitchell or maybe you get Reggie Wayne. Maybe you get A.J. Jenkins or maybe you get Kendall Wright. Maybe you get Dwayne Bowe or maybe you get Craig Davis.

You don’t know. You never do. The draft is funny that way. You might think you know, but you really don’t. Not with wide receivers.

DeSean Jackson, we all know what the Eagles had. It wasn’t a projection. It wasn’t guesswork. It was documented and it was electrifying and it was a blast to watch every Sunday for six years.

Derrick Ward, who spent eight seasons in the NFL as a running back with the Giants, Buccaneers and Texans, put some perspective on all this via Twitter Friday afternoon:

“I'm born and raised in South Central LA. I have uncles who are still gang bangin’, cousins who still gang bang. But what does that have to do with someone playing football and ballin’ out for your team?”

Nothing.

Still, the Eagles had every right to do what they did, and Kelly’s credentials certainly can’t be questioned after taking a lost franchise and going 10-6 with a division title in his first year in the NFL.

Maybe this really is a case of addition by subtraction, and cutting ties with Jackson help the Eagles turn into an elite NFL team and Super Bowl contender.

But they better be right. Because outright releasing a 27-year-old three-time Pro Bowler coming off his finest NFL season just might unprecedented in NFL history.

The Eagles have had two Pro Bowl wide receivers in the last 15 years, and they’ve released both of them in their prime.

Andy Reid ultimately did the right thing with T.O., although the Eagles have won just three playoff games in nine years since he left.

Kelly better be right about this one.

Eagles storylines at the 2017 owners meetings in Phoenix

Eagles storylines at the 2017 owners meetings in Phoenix

PHOENIX -- After a cold couple of weeks in Philly, Jeffrey Lurie and the Eagles' brass will get a chance to catch some rays this week. 

Lurie and the rest of the NFL's owners and decision-makers will meet this week at the lavish Arizona Biltmore resort. 

In addition to the actual meetings of the owners, the league's competition committee will look at 15 rule proposals, one of which was proposed and will be presented by the Eagles. Lurie is expected to speak to reporters for the first time in a year. 

And, of course, the annual coaches breakfasts will take place extremely early on Tuesday and Wednesday. The AFC goes on Tuesday, while Doug Pederson and the NFC coaches will field questions from reporters on Wednesday. 

It'll be a busy few days with the beauty of Phoenix as the backdrop. 

Here are a few of the big Eagles storylines to keep an eye on.

Long time, no talk 
Reporters haven't had a chance to talk to Lurie since this week last year. A lot has happened since then. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz went through their first seasons as coach and quarterback for the Eagles. Joe Douglas was hired as the team's vice president of player personnel. And Howie Roseman has continued to transform the roster through trades and free agency.

Last season was the first time Lurie spoke since reinstating Roseman to power, so despite Lurie's efforts to talk about RFID and next-generation stats, the conversation focused on the direction and leadership of the team. 

There's a ton to talk to Lurie about this year -- including his recently-penned piece in Time Magazine that railed against political polarization in Washington (see story).  

An hour with Doug 
This year, Philly reporters will actually be able to talk to Pederson at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday. In 2016, most split their time between Chip Kelly and Pederson. 

At that point, Kelly was the 49ers' coach and had not yet talked about his split with the Eagles. 

But a whole hour with Pederson is on the schedule this year. Plenty of questions about the future of the franchise, the draft and the free-agent acquisitions. We haven't spoken to Pederson since the combine, which came before the team brought in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Chance Warmack in free agency. 

Whatchu talkin' bout, Howie? 
Roseman talked a bunch last season as the 2016 NFL draft drew closer, but this offseason revealed that everything he said back then was nonsense. Last offseason was all about moving up to the No. 2 pick (at least) to draft Wentz and get the Eagles a franchise quarterback. 

One of the interesting things Roseman talked about in 2016 was taking running backs high in the draft. He praised Ezekiel Elliott, calling him a "rare" prospect. 

At that point, the Eagles were picking eighth and Elliott was thought to be a possible target for them. Here's what Roseman said last year: 

"You talk about the elite guys and where they're coming from, and they're hard to find. It's hard to find three-down backs, so when you get a chance to look at someone like that, it changes the discussion. They're certainly on your board."

The running backs in this year's draft aren't Elliott -- they're simply not as good at everything and not ready to step in and be stars. But by the way Roseman spoke last year, he didn't rule out taking a running back in the first round. This year, there will likely be a couple good ones on the board at No. 14. 

But remember, everything he said last year was just nonsense. 

For now, Roseman isn't scheduled to speak to reporters, but that could change. 

The rule proposals
The competition committee will meet this week to go over several proposals -- among them are 15 playing rule proposals. 

The Eagles originally proposed four playing rule changes and one proposal that would have allowed teams to wear alternate helmets to match alternate jerseys. Well, after feedback from the competition committee, the Eagles are withdrawing all but one proposal, according to league sources. 

The only proposal left would rule out leaping on kick plays. For now, players are allowed to leap as long as they don't touch anyone on the way over. This change had already been suggested by the NFLPA, so it seems like it has a good shot to pass. 

Among the other rules the NFL's competition committee will consider is one that would shorten the overtime period in the regular season from 15 to 10 minutes. The length would remain 15 minutes in the playoffs. 

The competition committee will meet to go over these proposals on Tuesday. 

NFL Notes: Raiders to Las Vegas should happen Monday with little delay

NFL Notes: Raiders to Las Vegas should happen Monday with little delay

PHOENIX -- Barring an unforeseen obstacle, the Oakland Raiders seem certain to get approval Monday to relocate to Las Vegas .

Several team owners have said this week they don't envision a scenario where Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn't get the required 24 votes to move the team.

One owner, speaking anonymously because he is not authorized to speak for the NFL, told The Associated Press: "Not only have no hurdles been made clear to us, but there isn't any opposition to it."

Added another, also speaking anonymously for the same reasons: "It's going to happen and the sooner we do it, the better it is for the league and for the Raiders."

Yes, the NFL is about to have a third franchise move in just over a year. The Rams played last season in Los Angeles after switching from St. Louis. Earlier this year, the Chargers moved from San Diego to L.A.

NFL: League hires Dr. Allen Sills as chief medical officer
PHOENIX -- The NFL has hired Dr. Allen Sills as its chief medical officer.

Sills, a neurosurgeon who has specialized in the treatment of athletes, will fill a new full-time position based in New York. He comes to the league from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he serves as professor of neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation. He is the founder and co-director of the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.

Sills, 52, will work with NFL team medical staffs, the NFL Players Association and its advisers, as well as experts on the league's medical committees. He will guide the NFL's health and research efforts.

"We sought a highly credentialed physician and leader with experience as a clinician and researcher, and Dr. Sills' extensive experience caring for athletes makes him the right choice for this important position," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.