Little-used receiver DeSean Jackson asks Rams to let him go elsewhere

Rams receiver DeSean Jackson displays a disgruntled face on the sideline.
DeSean Jackson has not been included in the Rams offense much this season, leading to the receiver to ask for a trade.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams signed DeSean Jackson for his speed. Now, the veteran receiver could be making a quicker-than-expected exit from Los Angeles.

Coach Sean McVay said Friday that the team was allowing Jackson to seek opportunities with other teams and that the receiver would not play Sunday against the Houston Texans.

“We’re working through some things with him,” McVay said. “We are allowing him to look into some options for himself.”


If Jackson, 34, is traded or released it would prematurely end the homecoming story for the 14th-year pro who grew up in Los Angeles and starred at Long Beach Poly High.

On the eve of the season opener, Jackson said playing for a team that had an opportunity to do what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did last season — win the Super Bowl in their home stadium — was attractive.

“Being back home, just knowing the possibilities. ... I mean everything is written,” Jackson said.

Having traded starting linebacker Kenny Young to the Broncos, the Rams will need to rely on rookie Ernest Jones to take over that spot.

Oct. 28, 2021

With new quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams are off to a 6-1 start, and they are regarded as a contender to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. But Jackson, who signed a one-year contract that included $2.8 million in guarantees plus incentives, has played a minor role.

Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson have been Stafford’s primary receiver targets. Jackson has been targeted only 15 times. He has eight catches, including a 75-yard touchdown against the Buccaneers.

But Jackson’s big play against the Buccaneers came after the frustrated receiver met with McVay because he barely played in the previous game against the Indianapolis Colts.


“He’s a tremendous player that has a great track record and resumé,” McVay said, “and I think all the circumstances surrounding that, that you want to be able to be open-minded.

“This hasn’t exactly been probably what he envisioned, and I think he deserves an opportunity to be able to see if there’s better options out there for him.”

Asked whether moving on from Jackson was a mutual decision, McVay hedged.

“There’s always ongoing discussion that take place,” he said. “It’s hard to say.”

The Times’ Sam Farmer analyzes each matchup and predicts the winners of Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season.

Oct. 28, 2021

Jackson’s departure would mark the Rams’ second major roster move in advance of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.

On Monday, the Rams traded starting inside linebacker Kenny Young to the Denver Broncos in a move that was financially driven, McVay said. Asked whether Jackson’s situation was another move to create space, McVay said, “This is kind of independent of that.”

McVay previously coached Jackson in Washington. He blamed himself for not getting Jackson more opportunities with the Rams.

“We have a long-standing relationship — this is not easy for me either because I would have liked to have done a better job of figuring out ways to get him involved,” McVay said. “It hasn’t unfolded in the way that you had hoped.”


Asked if Jackson’s frustration with his role affected the locker room, Woods said no. He said Jackson “could make huge contributions for us later in the season,” but he respected Jackson’s competitive fire.

Rams receiver DeSean Jackson catches a 75-yard touchdown pass behind Bucaneers safety Mike Edwards.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“He’s a baller,” Woods said. “You want to be in action, you want to be on the field, and I think that’s what he was looking for, and I think that’s what‘s happening right now.

“He wants to still show that he can still make plays and contribute in this league.”

As with Woods, Kupp said he respected Jackson’s competitive nature. He described Jackson as “arguably the greatest deep threat in the history of the game — it might not be arguable” — but the Rams still have receivers to create big plays.

“I’m not going to say anyone’s going to be like D-Jax, but in terms of trying to create explosives, I think that’s an expectation we have for ourselves,” he said.

Matthew Stafford’s stats rank among the best in the NFL, but the stat the Rams’ quarterback likes best is six wins in seven tries.

Oct. 27, 2021

The Rams drafted speedy receiver Tutu Atwell in the second round, ostensibly as a future replacement for Jackson. But Atwell barely has played, and McVay this week said he would like to see a sense of urgency from him.


Jackson is not the only Rams player who will sit out Sunday.

McVay said left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day would not play because of knee and chest injuries, respectively. Joe Noteboom will start in place of Whitworth. The Rams could use a rotation to fill Joseph-Day’s role.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was absent for a second day because of illness, McVay said, but that is not expected to affect his availability against the Texans. Cornerback Robert Rochell and safety Jordan Fuller, both nursing knee injuries, practiced for the first time this week. They are listed as questionable.