As the DeSean Jackson rumors continue to swirl, the most difficult question to answer is: Why?
Why would the franchise be looking to move a 27-year-old wide receiver coming off a career year?
Some point to his salary. But the Eagles are $16.2 million under the cap right now. Per OverTheCap.com, Jackson got $15 million guaranteed with his new deal, which ranks 15th among wide receivers. His average annual salary is $9.7 million, which ranks eighth. I don’t see how the money is really an issue. Talented, productive players get paid. And cap space is not stopping this team from doing anything in the current market.
Even after 2013, some suggest Jackson isn’t a scheme fit. Would Chip Kelly prefer that Jackson were 6-3? Sure. But he was one of four wide receivers in the NFL last year to catch 80+ balls and average more than 16.0 yards per catch. Jackson was a key cog in the best downfield passing attack in the league.
And finally, there is the argument that he’s replaceable. The team re-signed Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. The draft is loaded at wide receiver. But still, without Jackson, it’s a below-average group with one starter coming off an ACL injury and another who will face a lot more safety attention than he did last year. The draft is unpredictable. The last thing the Eagles want is to be sitting at No. 22 feeling like they need to add a starting-caliber wide receiver.
So none of those theories really make sense to me. The only logical explanation for trading Jackson would be that the head coach doesn’t want him around.
We know Kelly has final say on the 53-man roster. He said as much last summer. And despite the results in 2013, we know there were bumps in the road with Jackson. Back in June, the wide receiver didn’t like that he was running with the second and third teams in practice. He and Kelly had a meeting to clear the air.
There was the dust-up with wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell on the sideline in Minnesota. And with the playoff loss to the Saints still fresh on everyone’s minds, Jackson suggested he should see some more guaranteed money in his contract.
None of those incidents, when looked at on an individual basis, seem to be that big of a deal. But perhaps they hint at what’s happening now.
Kelly has placed an emphasis on chemistry in the locker room. He wants all 53 guys pulling in the same direction and buying into his program. But he has also admitted on several occasions that this is a personnel-driven league. Without talent, the most innovative scheme of all-time doesn’t matter.
The best solution for Kelly would be to do what coaches are paid to do: figure it out. Last year, he put together a top-five offense, Jackson had a career year and the team went 10-6. Why not find a way to try and make it work?
Maybe that’s what Kelly will end up doing. But the trade rumors are only growing louder each day, and the Eagles are doing nothing to quiet the noise. If they end up moving Jackson, it will be because the head coach is gambling on the risky proposition that the team is better off without him.
That’s the only explanation that makes sense.
WHAT YOU MISSED
A roundup of national media coverage: Buzz on Jackson, mock drafts and more.
Five thoughts on the state of the Eagles.
T-Mac takes a look at the safety position.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Drew Brees is disappointed that the Saints traded Darren Sproles. From FoxSports.com:
“I think a Darren Sproles only comes around once in your lifetime, in my career and in everybody’s career,” Brees told FOX Sports and USA Today Sports at the NFL Players Association player rep meetings. “There may be another one 15, 20 years from now. But there’s not many guys like Darren Sproles. He’s a special player, he’s a special person, he’s a special teammate. I’m lucky to have had the chance to play with him on two teams — ’05 in San Diego when we drafted him in the (fourth) round and three years in New Orleans.
“That was one of the tougher ones for me,” Brees said, adding: “I feel like that was my guy, that was my pick and I wanted that to last forever. But unfortunately, it didn’t last forever.”
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz takes a look at the Eagles’ defense:
2014 is going to be a key year for the Eagles defense. The players will be held to a higher standard this time around. They can’t use the “we’re still learning the scheme” excuse anymore. Put up or shut up. At the end of this season, the team should have a much better feel for whether Fletcher Cox can take the next step and become an impact player. Whether Bennie Logan is the answer at NT. Whether Ced Thornton can rush the passer well enough to consider him more than just a run defender. Whether Mychal Kendricks can clean up his game and become more consistently outstanding.
There’s never a dull moment with this squad.