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.

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

The Eagles might not have any top-flight cornerbacks, but they certainly have a lot of guys with some talent.

Many of them are young, and all of them are battling for just several roster spots.

That hodgepodge of talent has made the corner position one of the more intriguing spots at this year's training camp. We're not sure how it'll all shake out, who will be the starters, who will be the depth players.

But one thing's for certain: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants all of them to be aggressive.

"It's going to be fun to watch the corners compete," Schwartz said after practice Tuesday. "We have some guys that can cover. We have some guys that have a great opportunity here. If they'll get up and they'll challenge receivers, like I said before, if you can cover — you can't cover many people if you don't want to challenge guys. That's God's honest truth. I could play the deep ball. I'd get my ass 50 yards deep and you couldn't get one over the top of me, but I couldn't cover anything else.

"There's a fine line in there. And the fine line is you obviously have to play the deep ball in this league, but if that's the only thing you're worried about, you're not going to cover anything else."

Schwartz said he's happy with the blend of veteran and young players on the roster, before rattling off five names: Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, JaCorey Shepherd and rookie Jalen Mills.

The one notable omission from that list of names is second-year player Eric Rowe, who finished last year as a starter, but has been somewhat of a forgotten man this spring and summer. On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned some "hiccups" Rowe encountered learning the new defensive scheme (see story).

Even with Rowe buried on the depth chart for now, there are still plenty of talented, young corners fighting for jobs.

Carroll, on the other hand, isn't young. He's 29 and a returning starter from last year. Schwartz praised Carroll's smarts and said he's been a resource for younger players. But Carroll is also coming off of a fibula fracture and subsequent surgery. That's why he's one of the select vets that reported to camp early.

"This is important for him now," Schwartz said. "It's a good opportunity for him to come back before the full club gets here, just to sort of test it out and see how he's feeling. You don't want to judge too much. He might need a day here or there. It helps that he's a veteran player."

It seems Carroll, on a one-year deal, has a decent shot of being a starter opposite McKelvin. During the spring, Brooks worked outside in the base package and moved inside to the slot. At times, the rookie Mills also played in the slot.

Schwartz said corners in the slot need a different set of skills than the ones outside. They need to have the "courage" to take on big-bodied running backs and the occasional pulling guard. They also need to cover differently.

"It's very rare that you're getting the same routes," he said. "You're not getting the same routes from the slot as you are from the outside. So there's a different skill set. Some guys can play both, some guys can't. So it's our job to determine over the next six weeks where all the guys fit in that."

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday night, batting fourth against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. 

It's the second start in three games for Howard, who has actually been productive lately when he's gotten a chance to start. He went 2 for 3 on Saturday and had a homer in three of his previous five starts. Over that span he's gone 6 for 21 with three home runs and five RBIs as the Phillies' starting first baseman.

One of those homers was against Koehler last week at Citizens Bank Park, a two-run shot.

Howard's struggles this season have been well-documented and he's still hitting just .165, but he and Tommy Joseph have produced from a power standpoint. The only team in the majors that has more home runs from its first basemen than the Phillies (24) is the Cubs (26).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

And for the Marlins:

1. Ichiro, CF (four hits away from 3,000)
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 1B
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Jeff Mathis, C
8. Miguel Rojas, 2B
9. Tom Koehler, P

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Wayne, Pa. -- Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q+A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime.