Eagles Only Option Was Releasing DeSean Jackson

Jackson ReleasedAfter ramping up efforts to trade DeSean Jackson earlier this month, the Eagles had little choice but to trade the six-year receiver after a report surfaced allegedly tying him to gang related investigations.

DeSean Jackson is no longer a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and after a tumultuous offseason both on and off the field, releasing him was the only decision the team could have made regarding the six-year receiver.

In an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio shed light on the Eagles decision to release Jackson rather than trade him after several weeks of trying to move him via trade.

"After the NJ.com report came out, that raised a level of concern that the Eagles had about DeSean Jackson. Chip Kelly, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie had many conversations over the phone and with team lawyers and that is when the team decided to release him.

"When the story came out, the Eagles immediately stopped trying to trade DeSean Jackson because they couldn't in good conscience dump this on another team to deal with."

Jackson, according to sources, had missed several meetings in recent seasons to spend time with friends and the organization grew very wary of his presence in a locker room that is composed primarily of young players. Simply put, the friction between Jackson and Kelly along with both off the field and locker room concerns brought the Eagles to the decision that was made today.

Last spring Jackson was demoted to running drills with the second and third teams after falling behind on learning the other positions in the offense that Kelly required of all skill players on that side of the football to stress the versatility valued by the first-year head coach.

That incident resulted in a sit-down meeting between the three-time Pro Bowl receiver and Kelly, but also illustrates a source of the fractured nature of their relationship.

It's also very telling that Jackson thanked Andy Reed [sic] in his statement, but failed to mention Kelly by name.

Then there is the on-field confrontation with his position coach during a game in Minnesota against the Vikings last season. Clearly, Jackson's actions are not in line with the culture being cultivated by not only Kelly but the entire organization.

NJ.com's story points out that LAPD detective Eric Crosson contacted the Eagles in 2011 as a courtesy to the team, as he investigated a known Jackson connection to an alleged murderer. Jackson was described as being "cooperative at the time" with the investigation.

From a strictly football perspective, Jackson is coming off of the best season of his six-year career, finishing with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. However, before last season had just seven touchdown catches and five 100-yard receiving performances in his previous 33 starts.

It's now obvious that the off the field issues combined with Jackson twice making an issue out of his contract – following the 2011 season and again 48 hours after the Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs in January-were concerns for the Eagles and the contents of NJ.com's investigative report made it impossible for the Eagles to keep Jackson and difficult to trade him.

On the football field, the Eagles added an insurance policy by trading for Darren Sproles and there are plenty of indications that the team will add a wide receiver in the first or second round of May's NFL draft. Off the field, it seems that this was the only possible outcome of a saga that had been brewing under the surface for quite some time.

The perfect storm for the Eagles to pull the trigger on moving past Jackson from a purely football perspective is upon us as the draft is chalk full of prospects such as Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, Allan Robinson and others that have drawn interest from Kelly and the coaching staff. None of those players would command the $12.5 million cap number Jackson would have this season and all have the talent and tools to succeed in Kelly's system.

But the off the field concerns clearly weighed into the team's ultimate decision to move on.

Aaron Hernandez's purported gang association and ensuing murder charges shined light on a subculture that the Eagles and the NFL now must be aware of. While Jackson has not been charged or connected to any murders, it is precisely this perceived subculture that helped push the Eagles towards this outcome.

By inking Jackson to a $45 million contract extension in 2011, the Eagles gave the enigmatic receiver the option to change his ways off the field and become a leader in the locker room. He simply hasn't changed and the team's hand was forced as a result.

Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.