Head coach Chip Kelly answered questions about the Eagles' decision to release wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Monday at the 18th annual Eagles Youth Partnership Playground Build.
"We were going in a different direction at the wide receiver position. We came back from the Owners Meetings and we had no takers from a trade standpoint, so we thought that it was best at that point and time to release him."
Kelly stressed it was purely a football decision and it did not have to do with reports that indicated the team was concerned about Jackson's off-the-field behavior.
"It has nothing to do with anything that was ever written in a newspaper or any off-field behavior from him. DeSean was great the year I was with him. We wish him nothing but the best in terms of where he's going to be," Kelly said. "It's a decision that we made as a team that a lot of teams make at that point and time. Tampa made a decision like that (with Darrelle Revis). Chicago made a decision (with Julius Peppers). Dallas made a decision (with DeMarcus Ware). It's just part of the game of football. We wish him the best of luck. I know he's down in Washington now. We'll face him twice a year. I've got nothing but good things to say about DeSean."
Kelly was not surprised that the team was unable to receive anything in a trade for Jackson.
"No, he's got a very expensive contract. One of the best corners in the NFL was let go this year (in Revis)," Kelly said. "That guy is a hell of a football player. There's a lot of economics that get involved in it too."
Jackson had a career year in 2013 under Kelly catching 82 balls for 1,332 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. Kelly is known for his "big people beat up little people" mantra, but he would not elaborate if Jackson was released due to his 5-foot-10, 178-pound frame.
"If we tell everybody what we're looking for, it really doesn't benefit us," he said.
Kelly refuted reports that he had any disputes with Jackson.
"He never yelled at me, I never yelled at him on the practice field," the head coach said.
Kelly also said that the acquisition of dynamic all-purpose back Darren Sproles was not a precursor to the release of Jackson. The organization asked whether there was a player of Sproles' caliber available in the fifth-round of this year's draft. The answer was no, so they sent their fifth-round pick to New Orleans.
"We picked up Darren Sproles because he's a hell of a football player," Kelly said. "He's a multi-dimensional player. He's a running back. He's an outstanding returner. We were surprised when he became available. That was one of the deals where you say, 'Holy smokes!'"
Who will replace Jackson's production? It's unfair to put that burden on any one player's shoulders. Instead, Kelly expects improvement across the board since the players have a year of experience in his system. He can see from the meetings that are taking place now just how much further along the players are compared to this time a year ago.
"You add new pieces. You've got different ways to approach the game," Kelly said. "You just keep moving forward. We know what we're doing and we understand the direction that we're going as an offensive team. We're excited about our future."
The future includes seeing Jackson twice a year since he signed with Washington. It was something that the Eagles were prepared for once they made the decision to release him.
"Are we worried? No," Kelly said. "We know he's a really good football player, but when you release him he's free to negotiate with 31 other teams. We knew he could end up in the division."
Kelly says Jackson was great in his year with Kelly ... Had nothing to do with anything off field ... Purely a football decision.
— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) April 28, 2014
Kelly says he had no press conference when team released Jason Avant or any other player, shouldn't be different for Jackson. — Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) April 28, 2014
Kelly says team is committed to taking Best Player Available in draft. — Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) April 28, 2014