Eagles cut ties with WR Jackson, sign QB Sanchez
DeSean Jackson went from the trading block to the chopping block.
Jackson is out in Philly — just as Mark Sanchez was on his way into town.
Unable to find a taker on the trade market, the Eagles released him, ending the Pro Bowl wide receiver's six-year stint with the team. His playmaking days are over in Philly, and the tailspin from key cog to unexpected free agent comes with a hint that off-field issues are at the root of the split.
Jackson thanked the Eagles organization and fans in a statement Friday, and also denied "unfounded reports" that he was released for any reason related to his lifestyle.
"I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang," Jackson said. "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."
Before releasing Jackson, the Eagles announced they had signed Sanchez. Bounced out of New York after the Jets signed Michael Vick last week, Sanchez moved down turnpike to Philadelphia in what essentially was a swap with Vick.
"I think we passed each other on the train," Sanchez said, laughing.
Sanchez can wave goodbye to Jackson, too.
Jackson was coming off a career-best season in Philadelphia, leading the team with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He had a $10.25 million contract for the 2014 season and was signed through 2016.
"After careful consideration over this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson," the Eagles said in a statement.
The Eagles had no other comment. Jackson's agent, Joel Segal, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Jackson has 356 career receptions for 6,117 yards and 32 touchdowns. He's a dangerous returner who went to the Pro Bowl in 2009 after taking two punts the distance. Jackson has four career scores on punt returns, including the memorable 65-yard game-ending return to cap a comeback win over the New York Giants in 2010.
The 27-year-old receiver is entering his seventh NFL season.
The Eagles had been put out feelers that Jackson was available. Coach Chip Kelly refused to commit on Jackson's return at this week's NFL meetings.
But other teams could be quick to sign one of the NFL's top receivers.
Speaking at the NFL meetings, Jets owner Woody Johnson expressed interest in Jackson, saying: "We're looking at a number of players, including DeSean."
Jackson could be a showboat — memorably dropping the ball in celebration before the goal line after an apparent long touchdown — and upset the Eagles this season when he lobbied for a new contact shortly after they were eliminated in the playoffs. His departure leaves the Eagles with Riley Cooper, who survived a video scandal that showed him using the N-word at a concert, and Jeremy Maclin as the starting wide receivers.
"We just made an extremely unpopular decision, but I couldn't be more excited and happy with where this organization is going!! #FlyEaglesFly," offensive lineman Jason Kelce tweeted.
There's no locker room divide at quarterback.
Sanchez, in his sixth year in the league, will be added to a mix of quarterbacks that includes Nick Foles, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne. In college, Barkley succeeded Sanchez at Southern California.
"I'm not stirring up a controversy," Sanchez said at a news conference. "I'm here to help this team win."
While Vick will compete with Smith for the starting job in New York, Sanchez comes to Philadelphia as insurance. Foles had a breakout sophomore season and led the Eagles to the NFC East title after replacing an injured Vick in Week 5. Foles threw 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 11 starts, including a playoff loss to New Orleans.
The Eagles still have plenty of offensive playmakers, trading for running back Darren Sproles to go along with NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy. The options were part of what made Philadelphia so appealing to Sanchez.
"This team, this coach, the kind of offensive firepower they have," Sanchez said, "it's just an exciting element to being here in Philadelphia."