There were rumors about a rift between DeSean Jackson and Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Tons of speculation Philadelphia wanted to trade Jackson despite his productive 2013 season. A report surfaced about his connections to the Crips. Suddenly, the Eagles released him.
This is when the work of an NFL general manager intensifies.
Jackson is a 27-year-old standout receiver in his prime. Sure, there are red flags, but he had 1,332 receiving yards and nine touchdowns during a Pro Bowl season in 2013. Jackson has talent. He is young, and could be the difference between a team making the playoffs or sitting at home in January. And acquiring talent is the difference between a general manager staying employed or having to find work elsewhere.
Just ask Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, who is reportedly hosting Jackson on Monday and Tuesday. Washington was a playoff team in the 2012 season, but finished 3-13 last season. Jackson could instantly improve Washington’s offense.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, who was recently hired as an analyst on ESPN, said 31 teams have been forced to examine the possibility of signing Jackson since his release. They are digging up as much information about Jackson as possible, and by any means necessary.
"What you have to do is you have to look to your security department, and your in-house information, and you’re busy trying to gather all the information you can about all the allegations," Dominik told Shutdown Corner. "My initial thought is gangs are things to be weary of, but they’re also not as many players in real gangs right now as people think. You got to proceed with caution with that one because that one can just be thrown against the wall and not have any merit."
It does not mean general managers will not investigate that alleged aspect of Jackson’s life.
Jackson seemingly flashed a Crip gang sign during a game last year, coincidentally against the Redskins. He also has flashed what appeared to be a gang sign on social media.
That doesn't mean he's in a gang, and Jackson and those around him have denied that he is, but that is something an NFL team has to look at during their evaluation process.
"The thing you’re really digging on from a national perspective, and when I say national I mean the FBI in your local area, your own security director has ties, anybody on the NFL security," Dominik said. "You’re going through them, but the thing you’re really trying to figure out is who is this guy, and is he going to be a good teammate for your football team. Is he a person you’re going to be comfortable with in two months or four months? Something happened. They didn’t have to cut him, and they did."
Dominik’s assessment is correct.
Philadelphia reportedly tried to trade Jackson before he was released last week. Jackson is coming off the best year of his NFL career, thriving in Kelly’s offense. Players and coaches have clashed before, but the only thing that usually matters are wins and losses. Philadelphia advanced to the playoffs with Jackson, so winning was not the issue. It had to be something else.
There are also several warning signs since Jackson's release.
NFL players are usually the first ones to defend their teammates through social media. Yet, Eagles players are not forming a line to voice their displeasure about the decision to release Jackson.
In fact, Eagles center Jason Kelce seemed to defend Philadelphia’s decision to release Jackson.
We just made an extremely unpopular decision, but I couldn't be more excited and happy with where this organization is going!! #FlyEaglesFly— Jason Kelce (@Jkelce) March 28, 2014
The Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a receiver after releasing Steve Smith this offseason. Carolina’s coaching staff spent a week with Jackson during the Pro Bowl, but the Panthers were among the first teams to publically display their lack of interest, despite spending time around him in Hawaii.
Kansas City's Andy Reid, who coached Jackson in Philadelphia, also seems disinterested in his former player. The New York Jets recently signed Michael Vick, Jackson’s former teammate, and despite needing a receiver, they are seemingly not interested in the free agent.
Dominik said a team's investigation must gather all the facts surrounding Jackson’s release before he can be signed.
"You’re looking more into the gang allegations, whether they are founded or not," Dominik said. "They’re a lot of people who have information to that you can get a hold of. The bigger picture is if there is anything looming. Is there any investigation going on? Is there anything we can find out so we’re not surprised two weeks or three weeks after we sign them, and we turn and go 'oops'?
"That way you can go to the owner and say I talked to local, I talked to national, I talked to the league office. He’s cleared, cleared, cleared. Everything I have he’s cleared. There’s a lot of suspicion, but he’s cleared. There’s no pending investigations that I can be aware of. That way the owner knows if we do this, I know we did everything we could to find out the information."
Yes, the owner.
The signing of someone with Jackson’s baggage cannot occur without an owner’s approval. Dominik said some owners may not be scared away by negative information, but they want to know all the facts.
"First off, you have to examine your own owner and decide if it’s even worth the battle,” Dominik said. “Is this something my owner is going to be willing to talk about or is this something my owner might say, ‘Don’t even do this to my organization. I don’t want the negativity associated with it.’ Once you’ve gotten to the point where the owner says I’d be curious why wouldn’t we sign this guy, then you have to build your entire case up from here’s what we’ll pay, here’s how we’d structure the contract, this is the most I would pay him.
"You paint the whole picture for the owner. If it doesn’t come to fruition because he got more money, or he wouldn’t take your structure, you can walk away and say to the owner my limits were ‘X’, and that was as much as I would do, and he said no and walked away. That way the owner knows you’re defined in what you’re thinking, and you have a solid plan, and if it doesn’t work out, the owner walks away and says he did everything he said he was going to do, and we didn’t get DeSean, or the contract comes through and you get DeSean and the owner already signed off on it and says I was comfortable with what you’re thinking."
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