Team Report - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The SportsXchange

INSIDE SLANT

The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Friday that they released wide receiver DeSean Jackson and signed quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The team announced Jackson's departure via Twitter, then followed with an emailed statement, saying, 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."

Jackson's release comes two years after he signed a five-year contract extension. He was due $10.5 million this year and $30.5 million over the rest of the deal, but none of it was guaranteed.

Jackson issued a lengthy statement after his release was announced. In the statement, he also addressed a report by NJ.com tying him to a Los Angeles gang.

"First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly," Jackson said. "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. God Bless."

According to the report, the Eagles were concerned about Jackson's alleged ties to Los Angeles gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010.

Jackson is not a suspect in either case, but Los Angeles Police Department detective Eric Crosson told NJ.com that Jackson "routinely flashes Crip gang signs in photos on social media," and believes Jackson did so during at least one game against the Washington Redskins.

"You don't want to see anybody throwing up gang signs like he did in the Redskins game last year," Crosson said. "Those were neighborhood Crip gang signs and he flashed them during a game. He may not be affiliated with the gang, but they don't take kindly to those not in the gang throwing up those gang signs."

Jackson, 27, had a career year with 82 catches for 1,332 yards with nine touchdowns last season.

For weeks, the possibility of Jackson's departure from the Eagles seemed to grow with each day and each report. Last week, media outlets reported the Eagles were actively shopping the Pro Bowl receiver. There were reports that the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had expressed some interest in Jackson.

Jackson's attitude and contract, not his performance, were the issues that prevented his return to the franchise that drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Aside from gaining at least 900 receiving yards in five of his six seasons in the NFL, Jackson is a game-breaker who averages 17.2 yards per catch, and he can return punts.

Meanwhile, the Eagles announced Sanchez's signing earlier in the day.

Sanchez's one-year contract is for $2.25 million and includes a $750,000 signing bonus, according to ESPN. It also includes up to another $1.75 million in bonuses, bringing the maximum value of the deal to potentially $4 million. The bonuses depend on Sanchez playing up to 90 percent of the Eagles' offensive plays.

The contract's structure was agreed to Monday. Sanchez came to Philadelphia on Wednesday and took his physical on Thursday.

Sanchez is recovering from surgery for a torn labrum that kept him out for 2013. He also had arthroscopic knee surgery last season. He started throwing again recently and is believed to be about 80 percent recovered. He hopes to be healthy in time for OTAs this spring.

Nick Foles is the Eagles' starter, but Sanchez, 27, has plenty of experience as a starter. He is 33-29 as a starter and has won four playoff games. He showed promise early in his NFL career by reaching the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons, but has thrown 39 touchdowns and 36 interceptions since.

Sanchez was expected to start last year before the injuries ruled him out.

Sanchez, who played collegiately at Southern Cal, will likely compete with another former Trojan -- Matt Barkley -- for the backup spot.

Sanchez was released by the Jets last week. Former Eagle Michael Vick signed with the Jets just before Sanchez was let go, so the teams essentially traded quarterbacks.

Kelly coached against Sanchez in 2007 and 2008 when Sanchez started for Southern Cal and Kelly was Oregon's defensive coordinator.

Sanchez was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft and he is anxious to play for Kelly.

"I feel like this team, this coach, the kind of firepower they have, there's just an exciting element to being here in Philadelphia," Sanchez said. "Coach Kelly really is on the cutting edge of the NFL. He's one of those guys who has a really exciting vision for the future. I think he is on a constant pursuit of a competitive edge. He's an excitable person. I think as an offensive mind, I'm going to do nothing but learn here.

"(He's) so focused, he's like a surgical knife, he's that exact, but he's so excited. He's so energetic. That stuff is contagious. It gets you excited, to be in a place like this. The way he talked about getting the right players for this system; he feels like he's just about got that here. The kind of vision, moving forward, of what it's supposed to look like kind of came together for them toward the end of the season, so it's definitely a team on the rise."

--New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles is on the move, but he was not granted his wish to be released and choose his next employer.

The Saints and Philadelphia Eagles agreed early Thursday to the framework of a deal that was finalized quickly, shipping Sproles out of New Orleans in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this year's draft.

"Darren is a player that we have admired for many years -- he's a proven performer at a high level," general manager Howie Roseman said.

In addition, cornerback Nolan Carroll agreed to a two-year deal worth $5.2 million after spending four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Carroll fits the mold of the Eagles' preferred cover man -- long arms and big-bodied with physical tendencies.

He is the third defensive back to sign with Philadelphia this week and first cornerback, joining slot corner Brandon Boykin and 2013 starters Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams on the depth chart.

Sproles will be a backup to LeSean McCoy but also likely play some wide receiver in the Eagles' up-tempo offense and contribute to the return game.

Sproles was a key piece of the Drew Brees-led offense in New Orleans but played more of a receiver role than a traditional running back. He had just 53 carries last season and 101 rushing attempts the past two seasons compared to consecutive 70-reception seasons with nine touchdowns receiving.

At least six teams were in on the bidding to land Sproles, who is scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2014, the final year on the four-year, $14 million contract he signed in 2011. NFC East rival Washington made a late push to acquire Sproles, but the Eagles won out.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is sure to find multiple uses for the 30-year-old (31 in June), 10-year veteran.

"Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon," Kelly said. "He can do it all: run, catch, plus he's a proven winner. And on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well. There is no question we were all excited once we found out we were going to be able to trade for him."

Sproles was expendable in New Orleans where the Saints are shaving money to make improvements in other areas, including defense and their offensive line. The Saints re-signed running back Pierre Thomas and have former first-round draft pick Mark Ingram under contract.

Kelly covets players with versatility and especially playmakers who excel in one-on-one situations in the open field. With McCoy, Sproles and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles would have speed and explosiveness aplenty across the formation.

Jackson and Sproles are proven, capable return men.

The Eagles led the NFL in rushing last season with 2,688 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Suddenly their cup runneth over at running back with McCoy ahead of Sproles, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk.

McCoy had 314 carries in 2013 -- and only one other running back had more than 260 (Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, 289). For preservation, spotting McCoy is logical but Sproles is not accustomed to that role, averaging no more than five carries per game with the Saints.

Shortly after acquiring Sproles, he signed a two-year contract extension. The contract traded would have expired after the 2014 season.

NOTES, QUOTES

The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.

The Eagles will be at home against Pittsburgh in Week 3 and the New York Jets in Week 4, while going on the road to play Chicago in Week 1 and New England in Week 2.

--With the Eagles committed to Nick Foles at quarterback, Michael Vick signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets March 21.

After signing, Vick had a letter to the fans published. It said, "I would like to thank the Eagles and the entire city of Philadelphia. I was honored to be their quarterback and took the privilege to heart every day. I especially want to thank (owner) Jeffrey Lurie and (former coach) Andy Reid, who gave me the opportunity. I want to thank my teammates, who were not just coworkers, but friends. I also want to thank the millions of fans who cheered and supported our team.

"People say Philadelphia fans are tough. I say they are fair. A player is not judged solely by his past or promises of the future, but by his actions today, and the next day, and the next.

"In my time volunteering, I have met Philadelphia's heroes. I've met at-risk children with few resources, but with teachers tirelessly helping them make the most of a second chance. I've seen the work of volunteers at school fund-raisers, food drives, after-school programs, hurricane shelters, Toys for Tots campaigns, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the meaningful work of the Humane Society of the United States. I've seen children choosing the mentorship of a football coach over peer pressure on a street corner. One of the best examples of a community deserving a second chance is the North Philadelphia Aztecs youth football team. As the players step onto Team Vick Field, they can hold their heads high and be proud that they are making Philly stronger.

"The Eagles are an outstanding organization with a bright future, and I'm thankful for all the friendship, love, and support they gave me and my family. I look forward to seeing great things from them both on the field and in the community."

In a statement, Lurie said, "I want to personally wish Michael Vick and his family all the best as he heads into the next phase of his career in New York. I really enjoyed getting to know him over the last five years. He always represented our team with a tremendous amount of class. Michael was a great teammate, a great leader and we're thankful for everything he provided to our organization and to our community."

Lurie made the final decision to sign Vick in 2009 when he was released from jail after serving time on dog-fighting charges.

"I don't think our offense has ever been predicated on one player," Kelly said. "We used three quarterbacks last year. We used multiple running backs. Our tight ends are integral to what we do. I think we have an outstanding offensive line. It's never been about just one guy.

"It's why I think we have diversity. I mean, we were first in rushing and I think ninth in passing. I think there is balance in terms of how we do things. You want great players at every position and I think that's what we're always striving for in terms of where we can put people into position. It's never been predicated on just one guy, because if it is, if he's out for a water break or hurt for an extended period of time, then you're going to be in trouble."

--Center Jason Kelce is contractually tied to the Eagles through 2020 after signing a six-year contract extension with the team that could be worth $40.1 million. Asked about signing such a long deal that could become outdated if he continues to develop into one of the league's top centers, Kelce said: "They told me what the numbers were and I said, 'That sounds pretty good to me.' I think the longer for me the better because I really, truly don't want to play for any other organization. I'm happy with this city, this team, these coaches. I'm really excited to be here, and I have been from day one." Kelce has enough trust in the Eagles that if he does clearly outperform his deal, he feels they would address it.

--Jason Avant, released by the Eagles, was the team's primary slot receiver for the last six years. The most likely candidate to replace him inside is Riley Cooper. Cooper played outside last year, but the 6-3, 230-pounder can play the slot. The Eagles also lined up DeSean Jackson in the slot a lot last season.

"All those guys have the versatility to play inside or outside," Roseman said. "Right now, we're just trying to collect good football players. Obviously, we have a plan as to how we're going to utilize everyone. But it's February. We have a long way to go."

--Head coach Chip Kelly has not made himself available to the media since his season-ending news conference the day after the team's playoff loss to the Saints. He declined to speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl. He was one of just three coaches who didn't speak to reporters, either in the press room or on the side, at the scouting combine. And he hasn't made himself available after any of the team's recent signings.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--Linebacker Jake Knott, who made the roster last season as an undrafted free agent and played 12 games, has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2014 season.

In a statement released by the Eagles, Knott said, "Several weeks ago, I was shocked to learn that I tested positive for a stimulant that is banned by the NFL. I have never knowingly ingested a banned substance, but like most players, I take nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, I now know that supplements are not regulated and thus may contain things that are not listed on the label. The NFL policy is very strict, so I have chosen to take immediate responsibility.

"I look forward to participating in team workouts, training camp and the preseason with my team. During the suspension, I will work extremely hard to stay in top football shape and be ready to contribute immediately upon my return. I sincerely apologize to my teammates, coaches, my family and fans for the impact of my mistake on the team."

--The Eagles signed linebacker Bryan Braman to a two-year contract. Braman became a free agent when he wasn't tendered as a restricted free agent by the Texans.

Said coach Chip Kelly, "You don't find many players of Bryan's size with the ability to run down the field and make plays on special teams. It's an area of the game that we always have our eye on and look to improve. With his size, we also like his potential as a guy who can compete for spot as an outside linebacker.

Added general manager Howie Roseman, "We are always looking for core special teams players and Bryan has made his mark in this league on those units. He was a Pro Bowl alternate two years ago. He's a big, physical player who plays with a tremendous amount of toughness."

The Eagles also signed Seattle special teams standout Chris Maragos.

TEAM NEEDS

--SAFETY: The position is a concern even after the signing of Jenkins. Nate Allen never lived up to second-round expectations. The only keeper at that position right now is 2013 fifth-rounder Earl Wolff.

--OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: The Eagles need a difference-making edge-rusher. Trent Cole struggled making the transition from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 'backer. Connor Barwin is a good pass-rusher, but was used more in coverage because of Cole's deficiencies in that department.

--CORNERBACK: Starters Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were adequate and Brandon Boykin has developed into one of the league's better nickel corners. But there is no one -- no one -- behind those three. Nolan Carroll was added on the third day of the league year.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--LB Phillip Hunt (not tendered as RFA) spent last season on injured reserve and probably won't be re-signed.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--S Nate Allen: UFA; terms unknown.

--WR Riley Cooper: Potential UFA; $22.5M/5 yrs, $4M SB/$8M guaranteed.

--P Donnie Jones: UFA; $5.5M/3 yrs, $1M guaranteed.

--WR Jeremy Maclin: Potential UFA; $5.5M/1 yr, $3.5M guaranteed.

--DE Cedric Thornton: Potential ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--OLB Bryan Braman: Not tendered as RFA by Texans; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

--CB Nolan Carroll: UFA Dolphins; $5.2M/2 yrs.

--T Andrew Gardner: UFA Texans; terms unknown.

--S Malcolm Jenkins: UFA Saints; $15.5M/3 yrs, $8.5M guaranteed.

--S Chris Maragos: UFA Seahawks; terms unknown.

--QB Mark Sanchez: FA Jets; $2.25M/1 yr, $750,000 SB.

--RB Darren Sproles (trade Saints).

PLAYERS LOST

--S Colt Anderson: UFA Colts; terms unknown.

--WR Jason Avant (released).

--S Patrick Chung (released).

--S Kurt Coleman: UFA Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown..

--DE Clifton Geathers: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.

--WR DeSean Jackson (released).

--QB Michael Vick: UFA Jets; $4M guaranteed/1 yr, $2M SB.

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