Eagles actively shopping DeSean Jackson
The Eagles have intensified their efforts to trade Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the last week, according to three independent NFL sources.
While there have been earlier reports that teams reached out to inquire about Jackson, in several cases it has been the Eagles that have directly or indirectly shopped the wide receiver to gauge interest, two of the sources said.
The team had no comment on Friday.
The Eagles' marketing of Jackson leads to the near inevitable conclusion that he will not be with the team this season.
"He's as good as gone," said one source close to the 27-year-old receiver. Another source estimated Jackson's chances of returning at less than five percent.
The market for Jackson would seem to be a healthy one based on his performance last season, but a $10.25 million base salary and a $12.5 million salary cap hit could make the deal tricky. Jackson's reputation as troublesome off the field also could make moving him difficult.
If the Eagles don't believe he is worth his price tag, why would another team take on such a hefty salary? Based on official NFL cap numbers as of Tuesday, 13 teams besides the Eagles could afford Jackson's 2014 salary.
On Tuesday, Comcast SportsNet reported that the 49ers and Patriots had called the Eagles to inquire about Jackson. Currently, neither team - the 49ers have $4.2 million; the Patriots $7.6 million - has enough cap room.
On Thursday, the NFL Network reported the New York Jets, Panthers and Raiders had also made inquiries. The Panthers ($6.8 million) are also short on space, but the Jets ($27.9 million) and Raiders ($38.5 million) have plenty of cash.
The Jets agreed to terms Friday with former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who was Jackson's quarterback the better part of the last four seasons.
There are ways to create space, but the simplest way for the Eagles to deal Jackson to a team such as the Panthers would be for the receiver to agree to restructure his contract. Jackson signed a five-year, $47 million contract in March 2012, but none of the remaining money in the deal is guaranteed.
The Charlotte Observer reported on Friday that the Eagles had informally approached the Panthers about Jackson, but Carolina's cap situation and questions about Jackson's character were likely obstacles.
As for the source behind the reports, the Eagles could be attempting to build a competitive market by floating names of teams that have been calling them.
The Eagles have issued "no comments" to each of the above reports. The team's silence on Jackson could be viewed as an ominous sign. Before, they have issued stern rebuttals to trade rumors.
As for compensation, Comcast SportsNet reported that the Eagles were requesting at least a third-round draft pick. But two of the NFL sources suggested they may not be able to even get that much in return.
Jackson's fall from grace was in some ways a sudden one. He had a career season playing under new coach Chip Kelly, catching 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. His receiving yards were second in franchise history behind Mike Quick's 1,409 yards in 1983.
Jackson was one of four receivers to catch 80-plus passes and average more than 16.0 yards a reception last season. He earned his third trip to the Pro Bowl as an alternative.
If Jackson were to leave, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper would become the Eagles' top receivers. Both were free agents this offseason and signed contracts earlier this month. Maclin inked a one-year, $6 million deal, while Cooper signed for five years, $22.5 million.
The Eagles also added versatile running back Darren Sproles in a trade and are likely to select a receiver in what is being called the deepest draft at the position in years.
But there are question marks. Maclin is returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee - the second of his career. Cooper has to prove last season (47 catches for 835 yards) wasn't a fluke. Sproles will be 31 in June. And rookie receivers rarely make an immediate impact.
Any of those options would be a cheaper alternative to Jackson. And each would conceivably fit in with the culture Kelly has tried to establish within the Eagles locker room. Jackson has his allies on the team, but he lost some when he suggested that he deserved a new contract two days after the season ended, one teammate said.
The Eagles decision-makers were also irked by his contract demands and increasingly by his lifestyle, displayed ever-so prominently on social media. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman even went to a few players close to Jackson to see if they could get him to cool it on his Instagram account, for instance.
But Jackson's public transgressions have been relatively minor.
Kelly has not reached out to Jackson since trade rumors first surfaced earlier this month, according to a source close to Jackson. The source described Jackson as taking each day in stride, working hard, and motivated to have a better season.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has been described as one of Jackson's biggest supporters and played a significant part in extending his contract in 2012. He had a three-minute one-on-one conversation with the receiver after the Vikings game in December when Jackson had a sideline altercation with receivers coach Bob Bicknell.
Kelly, though, seems to have asserted his control over team operations. Asked about the Jackson trade rumors and his importance to the offense last Friday at the Maxwell Awards in Atlantic City, he sidestepped the question with a joke about an earlier Inquirer report.
"He's a priority at receiver, before Maclin, behind Cooper, or is it Cooper before Maclin, or Maclin before Cooper?" Kelly said. "So I'll check what you write, and I'll tell you how we feel about it."
Kelly won't be able to avoid reporters next week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. He is mandated to answer an hour's worth of questions during a roundtable interview on Wednesday. With 31 other GMs in one place, Jackson may not be an Eagle by then.