When the Philadelphia Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Friday, it sent a sonic boom throughout the NFL community. Not just because a talented player was suddenly available on the market (that happens); rather because a report surfaced that Jackson had gang affiliations, according to a report published at NJ.com which wrote (in part):
Then, suddenly, the Eagles had even more serious concerns when they were revealed by NJ.com -- Jackson's continued association with reputed Los Angeles street gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010.
Obviously the NFL has a hyper-sensitivity with players affiliated with gangs since former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been indicted with first-degree murder for the killing of Odin Lloyd. He's also connected to a double homicide in Boston.
Roughly an hour after the report was released, the Philadelphia Eagles released Jackson.
Yes. The timing stinks to us also.
The Eagles, who have been trying to find a partner to trade Jackson in Orlando this week, failed to convince someone to carry his $10.5 million price tag in 2014 and double-digit cap numbers for the next three seasons. Once the damaging report surfaced on Friday, allowing the Eagles, who clearly knew everything in the report well beforehand (they were asked about it throughout the report) an excuse to release Jackson, they pulled the trigger.
Jackson disputed the report.
"I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field," Jackson said in a statement. "I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member, and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible.
"I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true."
Monte Poole with CSNBayArea.com revisited an experience that he had, joining DeSean and his brother Bryan in 2011, to San Quentin prison.
DeSean was tremendous, speaking with authority and clarity about his own experience in Los Angeles, talking about friends he had lost to prison or death as a result of the gang lifestyle. He told me he saw a lot of people at the Q who grew up as he did, navigating violent streets and hoping to survive. Some did. Others did not. DeSean said he always looked to his brother -- Byron Jackson had a brief NFL career -- and their father for guidance.
In fact, it wasn't so much the gang affiliation why the Eagles released Jackson -- that's just the hot-topic topic that carry's the most interest. Per the original NJ.com report:
Rather, sources close to Jackson and within the Eagles' organization say, it originally was Jackson's off-field behavior that concerned the front office. A bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly were the original reasons for his fall from grace, sources told NJ.com. And when the Eagles looked more deeply into why Jackson was missing meetings, they found that his friends were becoming a more powerful -- and negative -- influence in his life.
As of this posting, the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders are pursing him and as many as six teams have expressed some level of interest.
The Bengals aren't known to be one, but we're going to list them as doubtful.
Along with the obvious that negotiations with so many teams will increase his money value, the Bengals want nothing to do with troubled players any more -- unlike their theory years ago.
Head coach Marvin Lewis told Yahoo! Sports last summer that the team is focused on drafting players that focus more on character, rather than reaching for talent.
He absolutely had to have guys he could count on. This from a team that not only drafted the late Chris Henry, but re-signed him even after a slew of arrests.
"I don't think Chris Henry, we would pick today," Lewis said. "See, Chris had social issues [at the time of the draft but] he hadn't really gotten into legal issues. Chris would have a harder time today just because we would be more sketchy on if he could handle the day to day of being a good teammate.
"I think there was always a feeling that boys will be boys," Lewis continued. "There are some boys that just can't get over being boys. And unfortunately, the organization had to learn that."
Even more to the point, Bengals owner Mike Brown talked specifically about character concerns.
"Once upon a time, we drafted with character as a big part of the judgment," Brown said via NBC Sports last December. "And then we played a team – without naming that team – and they used to knock our socks off. They were playing with guys who we thought were, in some ways, I won’t say reprehensible but they were certainly, in our minds, questionable. Of course, that might not have been fair. After all, they were beating us pretty good.
"But, well, we said: ‘If they’re beating us doing that, we better do it too.’ We tried that for a while. I think we had an unfortunate run of mishaps with guys that went off the track. … They were only a very small part of the overall, but they were the biggest part of our image. And it hurt us."
Remember. Even if the phrase "gang affiliations" wasn't mentioned, we're still talking about a player in Jackson that routinely missed meetings who had a bad attitude. Maybe it was just his situation in Philadelphia, an irreconcilable marriage that would dissolve if Jackson finds a change of scenery. Who knows.
In the end, why would Cincinnati risk it after spending so many years building a character-based roster? They have A.J. Green, the polar opposite of Chad Johnson, and Marvin Jones who scored more offensive touchdowns than Jackson last season.
Jackson is a talent player and will find an eventual home. It just doesn't appear like it'll be in Cincinnati.