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.

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

In his second-to-last game in a Phillies uniform, Ryan Howard will man first base and bat fifth against the Mets on Saturday afternoon (1:05/FOX).

Howard went 1 for 4 Friday night with a double. The first baseman has three home runs and five RBI in 44 at-bats against the Mets this season. 

Andres Blanco takes Freddy Galvis’ starting spot at shortstop and bats second. Galvis left Friday night's game with hamstring tightness. Blanco has not made a start since Sept. 16, but is batting .294 against the Mets this year.

Cameron Rupp catches and bats sixth for the second day in a row. Rupp went 2 for 3 on Friday night with an RBI. Jimmy Paredes and Aaron Altherr follow Rupp in the lineup and man the corners in the outfield.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Andres Blanco, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Phil Klein, P

And the Mets lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Curtis Granderson, CF
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. T.J. Rivera, 2B
7. James Loney, 1B
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C
9. Bartolo Colon, P

Love Isn't Always on Time: Approaching the Ben Simmons injury rationally

Love Isn't Always on Time: Approaching the Ben Simmons injury rationally

Does it hurt? Yeah, it hurts. 

You know when the last year the Sixers went into the preseason without a devastating injury to a frontcourt player hanging over their heads was? 2011. Back when LMFAO was big. Since then, it's been:

2012: Andrew Bynum
2013: Nerlens Noel
2014: Joel Embiid
2015: Joel Embiid
2016: Ben Simmons

Even the Blazers, heretofore the NBA franchise with the most cursed big-man luck, got years, decades in between the NBA tragedies of Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, and Greg Oden to grieve. The Sixers seem unprecedently determined to get their bad juju all out of the way at once. 

The last item on that list was, of course, announced last night - Simmons has a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot -- and is especially tough, mostly because it was so unforeseeable. Andrew Bynum had a long history of injury. Nerlens Noel was ruled out for the season before draft night, as was Joel Embiid. But as far as we knew, Ben Simmons had lived a long and healthy life that, failing a Shaun Livingston-type freak injury, was just going to continue in its elongated healthiness. Foot trouble was definitely not in the plan. 

It's also tough because it proves we're not out of the woods yet. Not like anyone thought Philly was gonna win 40 games and challenge for the playoffs this year, but certainly most of us allowed ourselves to believe that the worst was over, and that karma was gonna finally owe us for a little while. Turns out, we may be through with the past, but the past isn't through with us. Doug Collins musta really sold this team's soul to get us to that Game 7 against Boston in the conference semis four seasons ago. 

But we can deal. For better and worse, Sixers fans have developed a hard-earned resilience to news of such maladies, and this revelation isn't nearly as bad as some other casually-in-crisis press releases we've had to deal with in recent years (yet). So once we're done processing the initial sorrow that comes with hearing we're not going to get to see our No. 1 overall pick play meaningful basketball as soon as we deserve, let's make our parents proud by being good little Process Trusters, and approaching this situation rationally: 

This is only a two-month injury. 

This isn't yet, and shouldn't be, a season-ender. ESPN estimates Simmons will be out eight weeks; a wise bet would probably have him staying sidelined a little longer than that Just to Be Sure. Christmas seems like the reasonable mental goalpost for his return, which means -- barring setbacks -- at most he'd miss the team's first 30 games. 

That's a lot, but not really: Jahlil Okafor missed 29 games last season, and I don't think most of us even remember injuries as being a particularly notable part of his rookie year. By this point, the Sixers are used to going entire seasons without proof of life from our star rooks. Two months? We can do that standing on our heads. 

This doesn't necessarily mean anything for Simmons' long-term prospects. 

Feet-related injuries are rivaled only by head stuff as the scariest thing you can see on an NBA medical report — especially for big men, as memories of giants like Walton and Yao having their careers plagued by such maladies continue to reverberate. In Simmons' case, his injury is reminiscent of Nets center Brook Lopez, who lost the better part of several seasons to recurring problems stemming from an initial foot fracture. 

But as that above list shows, the great majority of NBA players to have suffered this injury -- presumed to be an avulsion fracture, not the ghastlier Jones fracture -- have bounced back from it pretty quickly, and not been subsequently effected. Pau Gasol and Mike Bibby both went on to have long, productive, mostly health-drama-free-careers -- hell, Pau just averaged 19 and 13 in 72 games as a 35-year-old. C.J. McCollum suffered the injury as a rookie just three years ago, and I'd already forgotten it was even part of his story. Our Once and Always Dark Lord-willing, it doesn't have to be part of Simmons', either. 

The Sixers — and Simmons — were gonna be bad anyway. 

Not like this much hurts the Sixers' playoff chances, which were basically 0 to begin with. As much excitement as we could have expected from the early parts of this season, "wins' was not gonna be part of the deal just yet — Vegas set our over-under at 27.5, and most of our local experts have logically taken the under. Hopefully we actually get at least one of our first 17 this year, but with a poorly balanced rotation consisting mostly of rookies and free agents, W's were always gonna be slow-coming. 

And I personally believed that Simmons was gonna take a while to blossom himself. We'd get some gorgeous passes and fun full-court shenanigans, sure, but we'd also get a lot of clanked jumpers, missed rotations, and soul-sucking isos that take up 18 seconds of the shot-clock and still finish where they started. He'll still have that rough adjustment period two months or so later, but at least with the season already underway and the rest of the squad maybe finding their footing a little, hopefully there'll be less pressure on him to do everything immediately. 

Simmons can still put in work while sidelined. 

Remember how horrific Nerlens Noel's shooting form was coming into the NBA? The upside of him missing a year with his torn ACL was that he was able to spend a good portion of his should've-been-rookie season rebuilding it. He's still not Kevin Garnett on offense and likely never will be, but he was able to reach Respectably Bad at the free-throw line, and that alone will make an enormous difference in the arc of his NBA career. 

Simmons' jumper isn't nearly so broken, but he could also use the work. Time spent perfecting his mechanics while he doesn't have any other aspects of the game to really worry about could be huge for Benny's early development, and hopefully will give him the confidence to take -- if not yet make -- those open jumpers when first presented to him. 

We still have the two other guys. 

Truth is, Simmons was only the rookie I was third-most-excited about on the Sixers this year, and the other two -- Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who we've waited a combined four seasons for -- are still on track to play. Of course, putting all (or at least half) our eggs in Emiid's basket is never gonna be a particularly secure feeling, and the mind goes even catatonic considering the possibility of Embiid also getting hurt before season's start. But if (knock on lumber-yard) this as bad as the preseason news gets for the Sixers, and we enter with just the two mega-hyped rooks, with a third on the way shortly... that's still cupcakes and sprinkles as far as I'm concerned. 

So yeah, this is a bad weekend, and a rough development for a fanbase who'd finally begun to let their guard down the teensiest amount. That said, it's not the end of the world, the end of the season, or really the end of anything besides our foolishly unbridled optimism. A valuable lesson in hoping for the best and always fearing the worst, but just because we're not floating in the clouds anymore doesn't mean we're plummeting to the ground yet, either.