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Why Eagles' didn't cut DeSean Jackson sooner is the bigger surprise

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Weeks of rumors and speculation regarding DeSean Jackson’s future as a Philadelphia Eagle ended Friday when the team gave him his outright release.

 

That’s right. DeSean Jackson, the all-pro explosive talent (when he wants to be) and Eagles best statistical wide receiver who happened to achieve career bests in several categories last season. Gone. Not even traded. Cut.

 

Sound the alarm!

 

“How could the Eagles do this?!  What are they thinking?! They’ve ruined their entire team!  It’s Cris Carter all over again.”DeSean jackson

 

Now granted, all of these reactions are understandable upon hearing the news that Jackson has officially flown the proverbial coup, and one might think the Birds' don't look as good now in the  2015 Superbowl odds. Maybe the Eagles did make a mistake. Maybe DeSean Jackson will be signed by the Seahawks, where he’ll score the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles next season. Maybe he’ll break Jerry Rice’s all-time records for most career receiving yards and receptions.

 

That being said, I seriously doubt it. While Jackson has given the Eagles and their fans some great moments during his six seasons with the team, he’s not even an elite wide receiver in the NFL. He doesn’t have the size, his work ethic is questionable and his attitude leaves a lot to be desired.  And before everybody goes blaming the Eagles for doing something so horrid on the severity scale that it fell just short of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, take a deep breath and try to be rational. I understand that this franchise isn’t exactly known for making sound decisions regarding personnel in year’s past (Brian Dawkins, Juan Castillo as your defensive coordinator, etc.), but let’s take a closer look into how and why this could have transpired the way it did. And even then, we still won’t have all the answers.

 

First off, if you’re going to blame the Eagles for anything, you should blame them for not getting rid of Jackson sooner. Truth be told, DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Philadelphia Eagles should have happened after the 2011 season. You know, the season where he held out of training camp, quit on his team during regular season games and missed a special teams meeting, which resulted in his benching against the Cardinals. And yes, the Birds coughed up that winnable game to Arizona, 21-17. If you’re scoring at home, the Eagles missed the playoffs that season by one game to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. While you can’t blame the Eagles failures that season on Jackson alone or necessarily that particular game, it’s rather surprising people have forgotten about these character-defining incidents.

 

Even prior to that season, serious issues were taking place behind the scenes. Earlier that year, LAPD detective Eric Crosson reached out to the Eagles in regards to Jackson’s alleged connection with Theron Shakir, an accused member of the Crips and one of two people charged in the murder of 14-year-old Taburi Watson, who was shot dead on the streets of Los Angeles in late 2010. Shaki is a rapper who is on Jaccpot Records, a label owned by Jackson. While Jackson was not a suspect in the case, it didn’t stop him from posting "Free Trezzy #Real1 #Jaccpot" photos on Instagram while while Shakir was incarcerated prior to his trial. Although Shakir was eventually acquitted, the Instagram photos continued, and the other “gentleman” charged in the murder was convicted.

 

So how do the Eagles respond to all of this? For starters, they never returned Crosson’s calls and decided to give Jackson a five-year, $48.5 million dollar contract. It’s not hard to come to a realization that Andy Reid was gunning for one last Super Bowl run when the Eagles signed Jackson to that contract two years ago (not that this should ever be justified), but soon after, Jackson’s name again resurfaced when a gang-related murder in Los Angeles took place outside a building that a member of Jackson’s family is associated with. Then Jackson’s house was reportedly robbed shortly after the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Saints last January. No, it’s not like robberies aren’t a common occurrence, but even the details of the robbery and what was stolen were sketchy from the start.

 

Needless to say, those previous issues involving Jackson or those associated with him clashes with Chip Kelly’s attitude and culture he’s brought to this Eagles team. Moreover, two days after the Eagles playoff loss, Jackson stated how he wanted the Eagles to renegotiate his 2012 contract.  To add insult to injury, Jackson then skipped out on his exit interview with the team. While there didn’t seem to be any substantial conflicts between Kelly and Jackson last season, Kelly didn’t throw Jackson under the bus when he told reporters he spoke with him, but he didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement either. As previously mentioned, the emphasis here is on character.

 

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Eagles reportedly had shopped Jackson around prior to the 2013 season in addition to the last few weeks, and questions remain as to why the team couldn’t even get as much as a 3rd round pick for him as opposed to cutting him and getting nothing. The team and Kelly had been tight lipped prior to Jackson’s release. Then on Friday, the NJ.com article by Eliot Shorr-Parks surfaced regarding Jackson’s alleged association with gang members. While the Eagles obviously knew of these allegations, many have said the article publicly forced the Eagles hand in having to make a move regarding Jackson purely based on the fact that they would be embarrassed to try and trade him to any NFL team in the midst of the story being leaked. Although the NFL is cracking down on the behavior of their athletes off the field since the Aaron Hernandez debacle, the Eagles should have cut Jackson much earlier than Friday if this is the main reason why they gave him his release.

 

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Some on social media and talk radio are even making this a race issue, asking why Riley Cooper still on this team after his actions last season, yet a more talented player like Jackson is gone. Let’s put that to rest real quick. For starters, the Eagles employed a black ex-convict for five seasons (Michael Vick), so there goes that theory. Cooper is basically still on this team due to the actions of Vick and former Eagle Jason Avant, who were probably the two most positive influences on Jackson in the Eagles’ locker room. If that was the case, did the Eagles really want to find a new policeman to help control Jackson now that both of those players are gone? Or did they want to wash their hands of Jackson and focus their draft needs towards one of the many wide receivers available in May’s NFL Draft who can buy into Kelly’s program?

 

In the world of sports, practically no player is irreplaceable. The Eagles said goodbye to Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor after the 2003 season and still came within three points of winning the Super Bowl the next season with Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown taking their places. When Pete Rose left the Reds and joined the Phillies after the 1978 baseball season, Ray Knight took his place at third base. Guess what team made the NLCS in 1979 and guess who was watching the games at home? Hint: Rose wasn’t playing. When the Cardinals (sorry to bring this up) won the 2011 World Series, their 2010 20-game winner (Adam Wainwright) didn’t throw a pitch the entire season. If Nick Foles falls in love with one of the Birds’ current or future receivers and the team doesn’t break stride, Kelly will be praised. The only thing people will be saying is how the Eagles’ offense would be even better with Jackson. However, if Foles can’t get that deep ball off like he did last season, the Eagles will be a bunch of knuckleheads. The bottom line here is that anyone is replaceable- as long as there’s an adequate replacement for the person you’re replacing.

 

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the Eagles had something in the works when the team resigned Cooper as well as Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of 2013 due to injury. Make no mistake, Darren Sproles is a great addition to the Eagles, but losing Jackson could obviously hurt this team more than they realize. Cooper’s success was due in large part to opposing defenses double teaming Jackson. That is no longer an option, but Kelly relies more on his system than any individual player. Photo: TMZ

 

In a statement released Friday, Jackson claims that he is is not a gang member, and this very well might be true. But why is Jackson seen flashing the Crip sign on Instagram as well as during the Eagles’ first game of the year against the Redskins?  Unfortunately, the fact that Jackson’s name is associated with multiple incidents in some capacity relating to gang-related murders furthermore proves that not only does Jackson’s future NFL team getting DeSean Jackson, you’re getting all his baggage as well. Chances are this won’t just go away.

 

Since his talent has never been in question, it would seem the Birds’ decision to part company with Jackson shows that character won over talent. Or maybe it was simply a salary issue and the Eagles didn’t want to pay Jackson the $10 million they owe him this year. Jackson had three more years and about $30 million left on his contract- a contract he was not happy with. Maybe it simply came down to the fact that Jackson just became more trouble than he was worth, his minuses had finally outweighed his pluses, and the Eagles didn’t want to deal with his aggravation anymore. One of those pluses included the some of the anti-bullying work Jackson did in the community. Unfortunately, this is overshadowed by the extenuating circumstances and individuals Jackson is associated with.

There could be more issues revealed in the coming weeks concerning Jackson’s departure. There’s also a chance we may never know the whole story. After all, the real reason Buddy Ryan cut Cris Carter from the Eagles wasn’t revealed for practically a decade after it happened. Either way, the Eagles aren’t commenting at this time and who knows when or if that will change. However, before anybody comes out of the gate condemning the team for how horrid of an organization they are for allowing this to happen, please look at both sides of the coin before immediately waving the flag for another spoiled, entitled, delusional athlete. And if nothing in this piece can at least somewhat convince you why the Eagles possibly washed their hands of DeSean Jackson, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your heroes.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo 1: zimbio.com

Thumbnail: philly.barstoolsports.com

Crip sign photo: TMZ.com