DeSean Jackson

Two years after signing him to a five-year contract extension, the Philadelphia Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson Friday (March 28).

A source tells ESPN.com that the team’s decision to cut ties with one of the franchise’s most electrifying players comes after the Eagles uncovered information about Jackson’s off-field connections and activities, specifically gang ties in Southern California.

Additionally, they decided to cut him, rather than trade him to another team that might be unaware of the info.

“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,” the Eagles said in a statement.

After his release, Jackson issued a statement thanking the Eagles for giving him a chance, but also denounced reports of gang associations.

“First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly,” the statement read. “I would also like to thank [former] 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.”

NFL teams are paying more attention to players’ off-field connections following the controversy surrounding former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder — also alleged to have gang ties.