Updated: March 28, 2014, 2:20 PM ET
ESPN.com news services
The Philadelphia Eagles on Friday released wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a move that comes just two years after the playmaker signed a five-year contract extension.
The Eagles’ decision to cut ties with one of the most electrifying players in club history comes after the team uncovered information on Jackson’s off-field connections and activities, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. In addition, they decided to release Jackson rather than trade him to another team that might be unaware.
“After careful consideration over this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson. The team informed him of his release today,” the Eagles said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, a report by NJ.com stated the Eagles had become increasingly concerned about Jackson’s off-field issues and his reputed ties to Los Angeles street gang members.
Jackson issued a statement following his release.
“First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly,” the statement read. “I would also like to thank coach Andy Reid for bringing me in.
“Secondly, 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. 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 . I look forward to working hard for my new team.”
NFL teams have become more cautious since last summer, when former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who also reportedly had gang ties, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
The Eagles’ decision to cut Jackson was supported by center Jason Kelce on Twitter:
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
Good luck with whatever team you end up with DeseanJackson10!
– Jason Kelce (@Jkelce) March 28, 2014
Jackson was due to make $10.5 million in 2014 and was owed $30.5 million over the remainder of his deal, but none of that money was guaranteed.
Jackson received praise from former coach Andy Reid, who drafted him in the second round in 2008.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the kid,” Reid said. “I did draft him. I had a great relationship with him, when his father passed away, that was a hard thing for him to go through at a young age. They were best friends. I’ve experienced life things with him, so I would tell you he was great for me when I was there.”
Recent reports surfaced that the Eagles were looking to trade Jackson. There also had been rumors that Jackson was not a fit in the locker-room culture that first-year coach Chip Kelly was trying to cultivate last season.
At the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday, Kelly said he liked Jackson but would not commit to him for 2014, saying the Eagles would do “what’s best for the football team.”
There may have been signs earlier this season that the Eagles may have been looking to move on from Jackson. The team moved quickly in free agency to get new deals done with wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, coming off a torn ACL, and Riley Cooper.
Jackson’s offseason also got off to an unsettling start.
After the Eagles lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the Saints, Jackson said he wanted to renegotiate his contract, then a few days later his South Philadelphia home was robbed of more than $250,000 in cash and jewelry, along with a handgun. No arrests were made in the case.
Jackson, 27, excelled in Kelly’s fast-paced offense, setting career highs in receptions (82) and yards (1,332) and while also amassing nine touchdowns. His 6,177 receiving yards are second in franchise history and his four punt-return scores are tops in club history.