DeSean Jackson worth the money, not a headache

DeSean Jackson worth the money, not a headache

It doesn't take much rolling up of the sleeves to establish that DeSean Jackson is a less than cost-efficient asset. Since 2011, he ranks 33rd among NFL wide receivers in receiving touchdowns, 17th in receiving yards per game and 13th in yards per catch. All account for the first eight weeks of this year, his supposed "breakout" year.

Yet Jackson's $6.75 million average base salary over the life of his five-year, $47 million deal signed in 2012 makes his the sixth-steepest cap hit at the position this year, and about $300k more than Megatron's. Next year and the year after, the last two years of Jackson's deal, don't provide a prettier picture.

But this you already knew, even if you'd never before seen the particulars in such horrifying detail. And while it's fair to note that, if given the freedom to cherry pick any player off any roster, the Eagles would be insane to choose Jackson over, say, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson or Demaryius Thomas, all of whom nearly match or surpass Jackson's production for a fraction of the cost, that's not the real conversation to be had here.

That is: Is he worth keeping for the last two years of his deal, neither of which contain guaranteed money?

He is. To the Eagles. For now.

First, the dollars and sense. The Eagles aren't in a bind for cash, nor should they be for the foreseeable future. This year, they enjoy an estimated $18.6 million in available cap space, as they do in most years in what's become an organizational shtick. About $7.06 million more becomes available next year from Mike Vick's expiring contract alone. Thanks to the NFL's rookie wage scale, replacing Vick in 2014 with young, cheap labor would cost, at its most expensive, about $6 million every year for four years, if the Eagles get "find a bazillion dollars in a suitcase under a bench" lucky and land April's No. 1 overall pick.

Even in that extreme (and unlikely) scenario, that still leaves more than enough room to re-sign Jeremy Maclin, which at this point seems sensible. Given his past production, how Wes Welker and others have recovered from ACL tears, how that injury in a contract year would nevertheless clip Maclin's price tag and how deploying a possession receiver across from Jackson enhances both players' value, thus undercutting one of the arguments for cutting Jackson loose in the first place, it's pretty much a no-brainer.

And if Howie Roseman decided to go 2011 Free Agent Frenzy again, and the Eagles really needed to cut somebody to make room for a new deal for Maclin, there are plenty of other places they could (and should) start. At their smallest, Cary Williams. At their most significant, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole. Neither are due any more guaranteed money. Arguably, neither are more valuable to this team than Jackson.

Second, you'd have to consider the replacement cost: a high draft pick and, likely, production. Limited as he is, acquiring a player like Jackson requires sacrifices. Two of the three hypothetical upgrades at the position mentioned earlier commanded first round picks. The other commanded a second.

Right now, the Eagles have far more pressing needs at, basically, every defensive position and, likely, a few on the offensive line. Oh, and quarterback. Walk away from Jackson, and you undermine your efforts to field a viable defense, support franchise quarterback and/or compliment possession receiver by using a first or second day selection to replace him, or suffer by (a) skimping on addressing the position by using a late pick or over-the-hill free agent or (b), worse, not addressing it at all. Not to mention, deploying Jackson boosts the effectiveness of the NFL's most dynamic running back, who only has two or three prime years left anyway.

So while other circumstances might point to a different conclusion for another team, who cares.

For the Eagles, it's just not worth it to part ways with Jackson now.

Of course, there's always a "but." The obvious caveat to all of this are DeSean's intangibles. And should his rap career, propensity to jump off balconies and pout on game day, as he did during the Eagles last two losses -- to the Cowboys and Giants, both of which could have, at worst, put the Eagles in a tie for first place -- manifest into a real, tangible impact, Jackson is absolutely dispensable. The next two years are too important of a juncture for nonsense like that. New, highly scrutinized head coach. Likely to be new, highly scrutinized quarterback. Locker room without an ostensible leader for the first time in three years. If it came to that, keeping Jackson would amount to Joe Dirt shooting roman candles at a nuclear bomb.

So if DeSean ever again becomes the topic of "keep him or cut him?" conjecture, remember, the numbers aren't what's working against him. Not for the Eagles. It's all the noise that comes with, and from, him.

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH – They won the battle inside the faceoff circle. Outshot their opponent badly. Blocked more shots, too.

And the Flyers still lost. Sound familiar?

Saturday's 4-2 defeat (see Instant Replay) to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series outdoor game likely confirms for general manager Ron Hextall it’s time to be a seller at the trade deadline with a playoff berth seemingly out of sight.

"We gotta score goals. We got good opportunities, but it’s getting old," Jakub Voracek lamented. "If we don’t find a way to win a game, nobody cares."

Not enough scoring from their pop-gun offense, which now has just 25 goals over their last 16 games. Which is a major reason why they've lost seven of their last nine.

"It's that cliché, gripping your stick and I don’t like to use that," Voracek said. "The bottom line, if we want to make the playoffs we got to score the goals. We're not scoring."

It was 36 degrees at puck drop and there were swirling wind gusts. Players said the first period was tough, but they adjusted as the game went on.

"It feels good. It feels awesome," Wayne Simmonds said. "It's the way ice hockey should be played."

So should a few wins with this club and it's not happening. They play well enough to win but ...

"We got to get going here," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We're [five] points back and that's the biggest thing and it's in all of our heads now. It's getting down to not a lot of games left and we've got to get two points."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth did not have a strong game facing 29 shots.

"We walk away with the wrong result," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a day in-between to turn the page and get back at it."

Things began Pittsburgh's way with Sidney Crosby scoring at 11:18, sneaking to the low right slot near the goal line to take a perfect pass from Jake Guentzel and one-time into the far side on Neuvirth for his 34th goal.

Brayden Schenn, centering a new line with Nick Cousins and Jakub Voracek, had a solid scoring chance in the final minute of the period, but Pens goalie Matt Murray turned his shot aside. Murray also had two good saves on Sean Couturier earlier from in-tight.

Nick Bonino, one of the heroes from the Stanley Cup Final last season, made it 2-0 at 6:44 of the second period on the power play. He scored almost from the same spot where Crosby scored.

Minutes earlier, Guenztel took a questionable hit to the head area from Brandon Manning which the Penguins felt was illegal (see video). Pittsburgh came back with Chris Kunitz rocking Ivan Provorov two shifts later.

Manning’s hit energized the Flyers, who owned the second period.

Hours before the game, Voracek said what most people were already thinking.

"I would expect this to be the biggest game of the year," he said. "You look at the standings. We can’t afford to lose."

Voracek wasn't kidding when he said the Flyers needed to do something here. He went behind the net 4-on-4 with Justin Schultz and came around the front with the puck to muscle it past Murray at 11:14, cutting the Flyers deficit in half.

Voracek's goal, his second in three games, gave the Flyers even more of a lift and they made a strong push to tie the game before the period ended.

"We spent a lot of time in their zone and we were very strong on the forecheck," Voracek said. "We had comebacks early in the season … but two penalties in the end, it's tough … How do you rebound? You have no choice. We're not out. We have to start winning."

The Flyers killed off a carryover penalty to start the third but immediately after, the Pens got a strong forecheck with Eric Fehr behind the net, getting the puck over to 40-year-old Matt Cullen, who snuck up on Neuvirth and stunned him with a wraparound.

That was a terribly costly goal and made it 3-1 but Gostisbehere got it right back minutes later with his first goal in 34 games off a point shot during the power play.

It was as close as the Flyers got. Pittsburgh scored off a faceoff to make it 4-2 in the final six minutes. Sean Couturier lost a draw to Evgeni Malkin and the Pens scored off a point drive Neuvirth couldn't find.

"That was deflating," Gostisbehere said. "We can be sad for ourselves all we want … bad bounces or we can say, 'well, it's lucky.' But you know, it keeps happening for a reason."

Penn fails to clinch Ivy tournament spot in 70-67 loss at Columbia

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Penn fails to clinch Ivy tournament spot in 70-67 loss at Columbia

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Mike Smith scored 20 points, including a key 3-pointer with a minute left, Luke Petrasek added 17 with a blocked shot as time ran out, and Columbia edged Penn 70-67 in a critical Ivy League game on Saturday night.

The Lions (11-14) and Quakers (12-13) are both 5-7 and tied for fourth in league play with a week to go. This is the first season the Ivy League has a postseason tournament with the top four teams qualifying.

Neither team led by double figures, their statistics were almost identical and there were 11 ties and 10 lead changes, although Columbia took the lead for good on a Nate Hickman's free throws with 10:27 remaining during an 8-0 run.

Hickman gave Columbia a 67-60 lead -- the largest of the second half -- on a 3-pointer with 5:37 to go. The Lions then went 4:11 without a basket, missing seven-straight shots. Ryan Betley's free throws pulled the Quakers within 2 before Smith hit is trey at 1:04.

Betley made two free throws and after a Columbia miss the Quakers had two 3 attempts with Petrasek saving the day.

AJ Brodeur and Jackson Donahue had 16 each for Penn.