Only a few months removed from the best offensive season of his career, former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson probably had no reason to believe that he would not be at training camp with the Eagles this upcoming summer. However, allegations of gang activity and a bad attitude changed everything and Jackson’s former team decided to part ways with the controversial receiver.
This decision left many scratching their heads: why would the Eagles release one of their top offensive weapons who seemed like a perfect fit for new head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offensive system? After all, Jackson had just come off a season in which he thrived, hauling in 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.
It transpired that an NJ.com article had been posted the morning of the release, alleging that Jackson was friends with some members of a Crips gang that had been involved in a few murders. The Eagles decided that enough was enough. They cut ties with a receiver who they felt was more trouble than he was worth and would be a bad influence on the youth in the locker room.
In the post-Aaron Hernandez era, appearance seems to be everything to NFL teams, so it shouldn’t be that shocking that the Eagles decided to release Jackson once his past seemed to catch up with him. It just goes to show that teams would rather have a squeaky-clean image that appeals to all than a loud-mouthed, show-off receiver with incredible talent and speed.
In addition to this problem, Jackson’s albatross contract was a major issue with him staying on the Eagles. He was slated to make $10.5 million next year, a kingly sum for an undersized receiver — Jackson stands at 5 feet 10 inches, 178 pounds — and Kelly felt that he could find a suitable replacement in the NFL draft. All of these factors spelled the end for Jackson, who will be forever remembered in Philadelphia for his blazing speed and ability, as well as his penchant for showboating and slacking off.
The case of Jackson calls to mind the problems that have assailed some of the NFL’s most well-known players. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was recently indicted for an aggravated assault charge, which carries a three to five year prison term upon conviction, after he allegedly struck his girlfriend Janay Palmer. If there is hard evidence that Rice committed the crime — there is surveillance video footage of a man (allegedly Rice) dragging an unconscious woman’s body from an elevator — why is he still on the Ravens while Jackson is looking for a new job?
It may have something to do with the team, as the Ravens are in wait-and-see mode, also having expressed public confidence in Rice’s innocence. It also may have to do with the coaching staff of both teams, as Chip Kelly has shown himself to be a no-nonsense type of individual who doesn’t allow any back talk from his players. Whatever the case may be, it illustrates that the feelings of one team are not always synonymous with another when it comes to players’ conduct.
Former NFL player (and, perhaps not coincidentally, a former Raven), Ray Lewis is another example of how a close shave with the law can affect your NFL career. In his case, however, Lewis seems to have gotten off absurdly easily compared to what Jackson is going through and Rice may go through. Lewis was originally charged with the murder of two men, but struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for testimony against two of his companions involved in the murder. The deal charged Lewis with only a misdemeanor, putting him only on probation by the NFL, instead of serving a long suspension as some assumed he would.
One would think that almost being convicted of murder would have hindered Lewis’s reputation. Instead, it only served to make him more famous. Today he is working as an NFL analyst for ESPN and is thought of fondly by most football fans as an emotional, but tough former player. Why is a man who had much more evidence against him remembered with honor by many NFL fans, but another man without much evidence against him forced to look for a new job? The only answer that can be given is that life is not always fair, and justice is not always served.
While it may have been a bit premature of the Eagles to cut Jackson before they had the chance to comb the NFL draft for his replacement, I feel that they acted in their own best interests. If they are able to draft an impact receiver who can duplicate Jackson’s production, they will look very shrewd indeed. However, if they are not able to replicate the production that Jackson was relied upon for, questions will surface on the advisability of releasing one of the top wide receivers in the league because of personal issues.
I will personally remember Jackson with fondness and always get a smile on my face when I remember him returning a walk-off punt return to win a key late-season game against the New York Giants in what was dubbed the “Miracle at the Meadowlands Part II.” I wish him the best of luck for the rest of his career and hope that he doesn’t make the Eagles pay for cutting ties with him.