A draft pick symbolizes many things. It could mean the future at a position, signaling the way out for a veteran player. It could illustrate a change in philosophy, when a 6ft 4in corner is taken among 5ft 10in defensive backs. In this case, however, a wide receiver selection will do what no dictionary has done before: define the term “football decision.”
Essentially, this weekend’s events will answer the question fans, media members, and other football executives want to ask: why was DeSean Jackson, a Pro Bowl receiver coming off of a career year, released on to the open streets? Coach Chip Kelly offered a response at the team’s annual playground build last week, calling it a football decision entirely. The draft may just be the remedy to fans’ plaguing curiosity.
In a receiver class as deep as DeSean Jackson’s longest catch, the Eagles would be stupid to not select at least one receiver. General manager Howie Roseman lauded the class, saying that “I think there will be a point in this draft, and that could be in the seventh round when we have a guy in the fourth round, that there’s going to be a really talented receiver” at his pre-draft roundtable discussion with media members.
Ultimately, there are two main possibilities as to why Jackson was cut. Jackson was set to make $10.5 million in 2014, and was too expensive to keep for an Eagles team that would be up near the 2014 cap limit. The alternative to this is that Chip Kelly likes a certain type of frame for a receiver, proven by his declaration: “big people beat up little people.” DeSean Jackson stood a minuscule 5ft 10in, and didn’t fit into the mold Kelly desired.
If the Eagles select, whatever round they choose, a receiver like LSU’s Odell Beckham(pictured above) or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, the answer is the former. Beckham and Cooks both stand around 70 inches, and possess an almost-identical playing style to Jackson. In fact, Beckham is a proven punt returner(as Jackson was), and Cooks could easily be seen back deep to field a kick. These two would serve as carbon copies of Jackson, indicating that his playing style and skills weren’t the problem.
EaglesCap.com estimates the team’s current cap room at $21.5 million for the upcoming year. If Jackson’s salary were on the books, combined with the salaries of the draft class, that figure would dip to around $4 or $5 million. A figure this small would offer no flexibility to resign players like Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, or other members of the recent two draft classes. Should this come to fruition, it would be crystal clear to fans that DeSean Jackson’s price tag was eel out of the Eagles’ budget.
However, if the front office submits the name of either Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin or Indiana’s Cody Latimer(pictured above), said football issue has to do with DeSean Jackson’s puny stature. Both Latimer and Benjamin average around 75 inches, five inches taller than the last pair of receivers. Subsequently, Benjamin and Latiemr are both bulkier than Beckham and Cooks; a sturdy, tank-like frame lends itself more to Kelly’s short passing scheme. These stronger players can run across the middle without being squashed buy an oncoming safety, while still using their pace to create yards after catch. Benjamin and Latimer both offer these qualities, with a reasonable amount of polish on their game; in contrast, undrafted project Ifeanyi Momah—who stands a towering 6ft 7in—boasted similar size, but had no speed or skill whatsoever. Momah was unable to create any separation from cornerbacks in training camp, and never found a place in the offense. If Kelly takes Benjamin or Latimer, the print on Jackson’s exit pass is clear.
The 2014 NFL Draft will depict the future of the franchise for this year and beyond. Uniquely, it will also offer closure and explanation on the past, and allow the sports world to move on from one of the most bizarre stories of the decade.
Photos: Bleacher Report, NOLA.com