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Amid reports of his connections to gangs and other off-field and locker room issues, Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been released by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The move comes after weeks of rumors and speculation, including a strangely playful photo from Jackson’s Twitter account of coach Chip Kelly (presumably to prove their wondrous relationship), a series of tweets from Jackson insinuating he’d like to play with his old pal Michael Vick on the New York Jets, and the refusal of Philly brass to back or commit to Jackson in any way.
Among the myriad stories swirling about Jackson’s impending end with the Eagles either by trade or release, the New England Patriots were listed as a potential destination. Now that Jackson is officially a free agent, should Bill Belichick and company make a Revis-esque run at the talented but troubled wide receiver?
That was the first name that came to mind when considering previous Patriots forays into the wide receiver world of disturbed divas. That’s not to say Jackson is remotely the same talent Moss was when he stepped into the Patriots offense and reeled in a record 23 touchdown passes from Tom Brady. But he fits the Moss mold in that he wouldn’t be the receiver Belichick gambled on to give Brady the deep threat he sorely needed to stretch the field.
Jackson is coming off his most productive season in his six-year NFL career, having hauled in 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Granted, that was in Chip Kelly’s offense-on-steroids system, but it’s hard not to get a little giddy over the thought of Jackson running deep posts and go routes while Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Shane Vereen run short to intermediate routes underneath. And that’s not even factoring in the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski at some point (presuming he can ever stay healthy, of course). Cut to Josh McDaniels doing his best Mr. Burns impression (for 10 minutes straight, apparently).
Of course, for every Randy Moss, there’s an Aaron Hernandez. The analogy likening Jackson to an accused murderer is an admittedly unfair one. Who knows if Jackson’s purported gang connections are real or simply an exaggeration of his other issues off the field, and I don’t mean to suggest by any means that Jackson w’ll become an accused murderer.
But after the former Patriots tight end was charged with murder and put in jail awaiting his trial, New England can hardly afford another off-field incident (especially of such magnitude) from one of its players. It would do almost irrevocable damage to the mystique of the Patriots Way (whatever that’s worth) and go against the fabric of how Belichick and owner Robert Kraft have constructed the team’s and franchise’s identity over the past 10 years.
I suppose there’s also a Chad Ochocinco situation somewhere in between Moss and Hernandez, but on a team of veterans led by a long-tenured, no-nonsense coach, I wouldn’t be concerned about his affect on the locker room culture, even if that contributed to Kelly and the Eagles letting Jackson walk.
Sadly, the notion of Jackson joining the Patriots offense is probably nothing more than a pipe dream. Even after restructuring Vince Wilfork’s contract to create more cap space, the Patriots won’t have nearly enough money to sign the 27-year-old Pro Bowler. The Wilfork Compromise created only $5 million or so in cap space, according to reports, and the Patriots already committed approximately half of that in a new deal to re-sign center Ryan Wendell.
Realistically, the Patriots probably wouldn’t sign Jackson even if they had the money to do so. Not only would his off-field issues prevent such a deal from being completed, but Jackson is coming off a lucrative extension that would have seen him make upwards of $10 million this season. I can’t see Belichick committing those kinds of resources to a single offensive player (other than Brady, obviously), especially after handing Darrelle Revis a $12 million deal.
Reports already have linked Jackson to the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, now run by his former coach Andy Reid. But there are still “several teams lurking on the perimeter,” so I’m going to keep hoping for the possibility of Jackson catching bombs from Brady. Because as good as the offense has been the past couple of regular seasons, the Patriots offense has sputtered at the worst time each of the past two AFC Championship games.
Maybe Jackson could be the next Randy Moss that puts the Patriots over the top. Maybe he could be another Aaron Hernandez that blows up in our face. More likely he would fall somewhere in the vast gray space in between the two. But the offseason is for nothing if not for dreaming, taking a team on paper and extrapolating from there. So let a Little Jackie Paper Me dream of the Patriots’ next (shorter) Randy Moss to pair with Revis.