Trying to make sense of the situation surrounding wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the Philadelphia Eagles is a futile effort without being on the inside of Eagles offices. What we do know is that the Eagles have explored trading Jackson both last season and this season, may have asked for a second- or third-round pick in exchange for his services, and that they may consider outright releasing him if unable to find a trade partner.
The news regarding a potential release came on Saturday, shortly after most concluded that a release was unlikely. That's just how this saga has played out from the beginning.
At one time or another, we've heard that the Eagles want to trade Jackson, that they don't want to trade him but instead are simply listening to offers, have promised Jackson that he will not be traded, could release him if it comes down to it and, maybe, that something has happened behind closed doors to anger someone high up, potentially head coach Chip Kelly.
We're going to steer clear of that kind of speculation because we're not privy to those kinds of intricate details and we're not likely to be in the future. If someone is mad at Jackson or if Jackson is mad at the Eagles and that is the catalyst for what's going on, it's a shame. The 27-year-old receiver is among the best in the league and it clearly hurts him to have this kind of controversy surrounding his name. It also hurts the Eagles due to the instability and the potential to lose a star receiver.
The only thing that's clear is that the miscommunication we're treated to in the media is at least playing some kind of factor behind closed doors. Reports from both sides have suggested that either doesn't expect this relationship to continue for long. We have the earlier report that the Eagles would cut Jackson and we have Jackson reportedly saying that he does not expect to be back in 2014-15, and that he has not returned phone calls from Kelly.
Multiple teams have reportedly expressed interest in Jackson. At the very least, we can assume this to be true. Jackson is an excellent player and it only makes sense that teams would do their due diligence, even if he isn't officially on the market. As to the teams discussed, the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets have all been named as potential suitors.
Some of those teams make sense, and others not so much. All could use help at receiver, but teams like the 49ers and Seahawks don't necessarily have the cap space required to handle Jackson's contract. As David Fucillo of Niners Nation notes, a team like the Raiders makes a lot more sense due to their sizable excess of cap space.
To this point, the salary cap factor is really the only thing we know for certain could be an issue for the Eagles. Philadelphia is not particularly cap-starved, with roughly $16 million in space for next season. That puts the team in the top 10 in the NFL when it comes to available space. Jackson does have a sizable cap hit -- he's due $10.5 million this season and has a high cap hit next year as well.
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Releasing Jackson would create $6 million in dead money but would save the Eagles $6.75 million in cap space next year. It's money the team could obviously use, but hardly money it desperately needs to clear in order to achieve success in 2014. The NFC East is hardly the toughest division in football, and if the Eagles want to win now, keeping Jackson would seem to be the best option.
Jackson is a six-year veteran out of California. After being made a second-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, he was an immediate starter and impact player. Aside from injury issues in 2012, Jackson has been very consistent throughout his career. He managed yardage totals of 912, 1,156, 1,056, 961 and 700 in his first five seasons in the NFL, with the total of 700 coming in the aforementioned injury-limited year (11 games played).
Last year, he had his best season yet. He caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards with nine touchdowns and a whopping 60 first downs to his name. He helped the Eagles into the postseason and always had to be accounted for on the field.
On top of all of that, the Eagles recently found who they hope is their quarterback of the future in Nick Foles. After Michael Vick went down with injury, Foles took over and took the NFL by storm. Philadelphia does have other solid receivers on the roster, namely Jeremy Maclin, but a team of Maclin and Jackson is a lot more threatening than, say, Maclin and Riley Cooper.
Maybe Jackson has some issues off the field he needs to correct, and maybe that has to do with his potential release. But there will be no shortage of teams interested in his services, whether it be via trade or on the open market if he gets released. If the Eagles can get a second- or third-round pick for his services, then at least they'll be getting something, but an Eagles team without Jackson on the roster in 2014 is worse off than it would have been with him there.
NFL Free Agency
Jackson has two years remaining on his sizable contract and that could be why a trade hasn't gone through just yet. Making over $10 million per season is a bit much, but it's hard to imagine him playing elsewhere in 2014 for anything less than around $7 million per year, unless this whole situation has significantly hurt his value from a personality/off-the-field standpoint.
Whatever the case, Jackson is a great receiver and whatever team he plays for next season will be better than it was the season before.