It’s been the biggest story of the Eagles’ offseason, even though it’s really not a story at all, at least not yet – and there’s a good chance it never will be.
According to numerous media reports – all based on unnamed sources – the Eagles are trying very hard to trade wide receiver DeSean Jackson. I know the local Philly sportswriters who have been writing these stories and, in extension, fueling all the rumors, and they’re all good reporters with credible sources. Still, that doesn’t mean they haven’t added two-plus-two and ended up with five.
Or maybe that’s our problem and not theirs, because when we add it all up, it just doesn’t make sense to get rid of Jackson. Of course, we really don’t know what the Eagles think of Jackson or whether they feel he makes too much money or is too much of a disruptive force. We do know that Jackson hasn’t been convicted of any crimes or failed any drug tests. We also know that even though we don’t like many of Jackson’s antics on the field and off of it, he’s really fast and very talented.
It is possible Jackson has done something terrible that we don’t know about or ticked off Eagles management in some unknown way. But, barring that, trading him just doesn’t make sense. If it’s just because Jackson can be a pain, well, we all work with people who can be a pain. An NFL locker room has dozens of players in it and it’s inevitable that some guys will be jerks at times.
One of the reasons the media seem to be convinced that Jackson will be traded is because the Eagles haven’t come out and said that he won’t be. But why should they have to make a statement? Jackson is under contract, just like all the other members of the team, and the Eagles shouldn’t have to respond to every report and rumor that comes along. Besides, coach Chip Kelly hasn’t talked to the media this offseason except for a couple of times when he couldn’t avoid it, including Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Kelly was besieged by media who all wanted to know the same thing: Will the Eagles trade DeSean Jackson? Kelly, of course, gave them no satisfaction and he seemed to enjoy it.
Jackson is coming off the best season of his career, one in which he threatened to break the Eagles’ all-time record for receiving yards. But Jackson’s value goes beyond that, and we’ve always said that the true value of a player isn’t in statistics, but in time – as in, how much time does the opposing team spend on him when it prepares to play the Eagles? We’re willing to bet that when enemy defensive coaches sit down to put together their game plan for the Eagles, the first player they mention is No. 10.
That’s because Jackson has something you can’t coach or teach – speed. He’s one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL and it doesn’t even matter if the Eagles throw it to him deep – just the threat is enough to open up other areas of Kelly’s fast-paced offense.
Another reason it doesn’t make sense: If the Eagles do trade or release Jackson they’ll have to get somebody to replace him, especially since their other wide receivers have question marks next to their names. Jeremy Maclin missed the entire 2013 season after having major knee surgery and there are no guarantees he’ll be the player he was before the injury. And even though Riley Cooper had a breakout season in 2013, there are no guarantees he can repeat that – one good season isn’t enough to anoint somebody.
So, if Jackson is sent packing the Eagles will have to use one of their high draft picks on a wide receiver instead of a defensive player, and defense is clearly where this team needs the most help. And that’s the main reason getting rid of DeSean Jackson doesn’t add up. Why would the Eagles use one of those good-as-gold draft picks on a wide receiver, when they already have a Pro Bowl player at that position? And no matter how good that draft pick was in college, there are no guarantees he will be good in the NFL – there have been hundreds of blue-chip college players who were busts in the big leagues, whereas Jackson is a proven commodity.
He’s also a perfect fit for Kelly’s offense, especially the one that will take the field in 2014. Jackson gives the Eagles a complete wide receiving corps. Maclin excels at crossing patterns, something neither Jackson nor Cooper are particularly good at. But Jackson is a more dangerous deep threat that the other two and Cooper’s size and strength give quarterback Nick Foles a big target that can take the ball away from defenders. These guys complement each other and together they could give the Eagles one of the better wide receiver corps in the NFL.
The Eagles might be more likeable without DeSean Jackson, but they won’t be nearly as much fun.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.