The Philadelphia Eagles released wide receiver Desean Jackson this past Friday. The release ends his six-year stint with the team, which capped an impressive start to his NFL career. Many speculate that the release was directly related to accusations that Jackson is part of a gang near his hometown, Long Beach, CA, but I suspect the release was the culmination of Jackson’s inconsistent efforts, suspect work ethic and a motion to free up the Eagles’ salary cap for other player acquisitions.
With regards to the gang affiliation, Jackson issued a statement hours after his release confronting the allegations. Jackson began the statement by thanking “the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia” in addition to former coach, Andy Reid, for drafting him out of the University of California at Berkeley in 2008.
Jackson continued his statement by addressing the speculations about his potential gang involvement.
“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang,” Jackson said.
Much of the speculation about Jackson’s gang involvement sprouted from Jackson’s connections to his recording label, Jaccpot Records, which employs purported Crip gang member, Theron Shakir. On the heels of the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation, it seems that NFL organizations have become a lot more wary of who their team members are and what their off-field activities include.
Jackson has been very involved in the Philadelphia community and is especially concerned with prevention of youth bullying. “I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field,” Jackson said in his statement.
I am doubtful of his involvement in gang activity, but it is important to note that Jackson has had a history of skipping team meetings and film sessions to hang out with friends.
At the end of the statement, Jackson spoke of how he is looking forward to getting started with his new team. Coming off a record year in reception yards (1,332), touchdowns (nine) and receptions (82), one would think Jackson will have many suitors. League sources have said the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers were interested weeks before his release, but the new gang information released from an article published on nj.com may alter these interests. From the Patriots’ standpoint, Jackson could be a perfect fit for Tom Brady and an offense that has lacked a true deep threat since the departure of Randy Moss. If one can remember back to the acquisition of Moss, many people were skeptical of whether coach Bill Belichick would be able to tame the egoistic and selfish personality of Moss, which had previously caused many problems with the Raiders and Vikings. Moss caught an all-time record 22 touchdowns that season en route to a 16-0 regular season for the Patriots that season.
I think Jackson’s blazing 4.35 40-yard dash is absolutely critical for the Patriots to acquire if they want to return their offense to its former glory. While Jackson’s slender 178-pound and 5’11” frame pales in comparison to Moss’ 210-pound, 6’4″ build, the two have an explosive ability that few possess in the NFL. Unfortunately, just as Moss did, Jackson has a reputation for sitting out on plays where he will not be targeted and for not giving 100 percent every game or every play.
The release of Jackson likely had to do with financial interests for the team. Releasing Jackson from the Eagles freed up $6.75 million in salary cap space, which can be reallocated towards filling in other key positions. As the Eagles also opted to not resign backup quarterback Michael Vick, the team will have lots of money to allocate toward free agent acquisitions and new prospects from the draft.
Desean Jackson is a high-quality receiver, and while some teams may be reluctant to take a chance on a player that has had problems with coaches, players and showing up on time, there are plenty of teams that will see his incredible talent and ability to immediately impact their team’s playoff hopes. It won’t be soon before he leaves free agency and signs with a team.