The Buffalo Bills are open to offering sanctuary for players with checkered pasts.
That's something to keep in mind after the Philadelphia Eagles released three-time Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson today. Jackson is a vested veteran and can be signed by any team immediately. He doesn't need to go through waivers.
Less than hour before the Eagles released him this afternoon, NJ.com posted a story that details Jackson's gang connections and a previously unreported marijuana arrest in September 2009.
But since the Bills hired coach Doug Marrone and General Manager Doug Whaley gained greater influence over the roster last year, the Bills seemingly have softened their criteria for players with character concerns.
I asked Marrone about that Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.
"I don't know what the philosophy was prior," Marrone said. "I think we all are people that believe in second chances, that people make mistakes."
A year ago, the Bills drafted linebacker Kiko Alonso and safety Duke Williams, each with multiple alcohol-related suspensions and arrests in college.
The Bills this month signed former New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010 drug suspension, several embarrassing social-media indiscretions) and hosted former Tennessee Titans receiver Kenny Britt (myriad arrests).
"Each situation's different and what that mistake may be," Marrone said. "There are some things that you can't come back from."
Marrone said the Bills' vetting process includes interviewing the player before bringing him aboard and spelling out that character relapses are forbidden to remain employed.
"They understand that stuff is not going to be tolerated," Marrone said. "If something happens, they won't be part of it. I think you just tell them that, and they understand that.
"They should feel a sense of having a chance to better themselves. We're in the business to win football games, but we're also in the business to make sure that our players and our coaches work together to better ourselves and our communities as husbands and fathers."
In Spikes' case, the Bills signed him to a one-year deal. That's symbolic for a run-stopper who they feel helps fill a significant need.
The Bills view him as a quality addition to their defense, but they clearly prefer him on a short leash.
"That's what you have to do," Marrone said. "You're giving someone an opportunity.
"If they take advantage of it, hey, great. It works out for sides. If it doesn't, you're able to exit that agreement and not have it hurt the team down the road."