There’s no one left who thinks DeSean Jackson will play for the Eagles this season.
The latest report on Jackson’s looming departure comes from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which cites “three independent NFL sources” as saying that the Eagles have intensified their efforts to trade Jackson. The report says, “He’s as good as gone,” and puts the chances of Jackson playing for the Eagles in 2014 at less than 5 percent.
As interesting as the Inquirer report is the identity of the reporter: Jeff McLane, who had been adamant for the last two weeks that Jackson wasn’t going anywhere. Shortly after we first started hearing talk that Jackson would be gone, McLane wrote in no uncertain terms that such talk was bogus. McLane confirmed with “almost a dozen sources” that the Eagles aren’t interested in trading Jackson. McLane also wrote that it was “madness” to suggest that Jackson could be on the way out, and McLane wrote a week later that the Eagles “most certainly aren’t” considering trading Jackson. McLane has gone from saying there’s a 96.5 percent chance that Jackson will be an Eagle to saying there’s a greater than 95 percent chance that Jackson won’t be an Eagle.
If McLane thinks Jackson is on the way out, then it’s safe to say that everyone thinks Jackson is on the way out.
Then the question becomes, where does Jackson go? The 49ers, Patriots and Panthers have all been mentioned as teams that could have interest, but all three of those teams would have a hard time squeezing Jackson’s $10.25 million base salary under the cap. Two teams that do have enough space for Jackson and have been floated as potential destinations are the Jets and Raiders.
Will those teams be willing to give up a draft pick for Jackson? That could be a tall order, as interested teams might believe they can wait for the Eagles to cut him and then sign Jackson without having to give the Eagles anything for him. However, Jackson is such a unique playmaker that there’s probably some team willing to give up a late-round pick and take on his hefty salary.
The good news for the Eagles is that they can take their time. Some players have large offseason roster bonuses, or clauses in their contracts that make their salaries fully guaranteed if they are on the roster beyond a certain date. Jackson, however, doesn’t get his money until the season starts. That means the Eagles can wait until training camp or the preseason to decide whether to cut him, trade him or keep him.
But just because the Eagles can wait doesn’t mean they will. For starters, if they’re going to trade Jackson for a draft pick they’d presumably want to do it before the draft, so they can get a rookie who will help them this year. There’s also the risk that Jackson could suffer a serious injury during Organized Team Activities, which would force the Eagles to pay him his salary while he’s on injured reserve. And the Eagles might start to worry that all these Jackson stories are becoming a distraction. So there’s a good chance that the Eagles will move quickly.
A good time to move quickly would be next week’s league meetings, where all of the NFL’s top decision makers will congregate. Not only is Jackson likely to be out of Philadelphia before the season starts, there’s a good chance that he’ll be traded within the next week.