New Rule Unfair to DeSean Jackson, Camp Holdouts

New Rule Unfair to DeSean Jackson, Camp Holdouts

As you can see, CSN caught up with the Pro Bowl wide receiver and returner at the airport on Sunday night, making some kind of fashion statement as he prepares to join the rest of the squad in Lehigh for his fourth Eagles training camp. Of course, it's little surprise DeSean Jackson finally showed, given that he is being coerced and actually had little choice in the matter.

If Jackson didn't get into camp by August 9, a rule change in the new collective bargaining agreement would prevent him from earning a year of service, which basically means instead of becoming a free agent in 2012, he would continue to have one year remaining on his contract. In short, number ten has much more to lose than $30,000 per day in fines. He could lose an opportunity to receive the very thing he's been fighting for--a new contract.

This is a major departure from old NFL rules. Players previously had until Week 10 of the regular season to report, and while they would lose more than half a season's worth of paychecks, would still accrue that all-important service year. In 2010, both Vincent Jackson of the Chargers and Logan Mankins of the Patriots held out until the bitter end to protest their respective clubs' unwillingness to offer a long term contract.

I think we can all agree that the old rule was more than a little lopsided. A player theoretically could hold out deep into the fall, and be in uniform for fewer than half his team's games, but get credit for having played a full NFL season.

However, the new rule is even more lopsided than the last one, and far more unfair. Jackson could lose the right to gain a service year before the Eagles have ever played so much as a preseason game. That takes the teeth right out of any holdout, especially in this case where the player is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

This may be all well and good to fans, as we have something of a distaste for professional athletes who hold out and ask for more money. As unpleasant as it is though, holding out of training camp is one of the only forms of leverage a football player has during a contract dispute. Now the act is rendered virtually meaningless.

And make no mistake, DeSean Jackson DESERVES a new contract. The diminutive one is scheduled to make little more than $600,000 in base salary. Even with his prorated signing bonus, the total sum of his current deal pays him less than a million dollars in 2011. For a player of his caliber, Jackson is getting flat out ripped off compared to the rest of the league.

We've heard the tired arguments fans trot out there. No, you probably will not earn "only" a million dollars this year, but unless other professionals in your field make millions, that's irrelevant. And yes, Jackson signed a contract, but as a second round pick, he had little room to negotiate the compensation for his rookie deal. Plus, let's not overlook the fact that NFL teams routinely don't honor their end of the pact, so why should a player?

Jackson is the person taking all the risk here. Players need to make as much money as they can when they are in the prime of their career, because before you or they know it, it's over.

Ultimately, I believe the Eagles will reach an agreement with DeSean before this is all said and done, perhaps once they finish a new contract for Michael Vick, but the August 9 deadline to report is still troublesome. What if Jackson sustains a serious injury during a preseason game, or even during practice? Will the front office still sign him to a long term extension?

I doubt it.

Because the risk for injury exists in those meaningless situations, a player should be able to hold out at least until the first week of the regular season. It's a long enough period of time that it's a valid concern for the club, but punctual enough that it meets the most obvious criteria for earning a year of NFL service--that being the athlete was available for a full slate of 16 games.

As for Jackson's situation, he was absolutely right to hold out. He was already underpaid last season, he's in the final year of his contract, and he has more than proven himself a valuable asset on the football field. If I were him, there would be no way I would risk injury until that check was in the mail.

But it's not up to him anymore. The league has taken it out his hands, and all he can hope is the Eagles do the right thing.

Before it's too late.

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday night he'd still like another veteran bat in addition to Howie Kendrick, though he understands the front office is conscious of not blocking young prospects.

The Phillies need offense and the clearest area to upgrade is an outfield corner. But don't expect to see the Phils go after Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders or anyone of that ilk, because those players will require multi-year guarantees and everyday playing time. If you sign one of them, you're basically telling two of Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr that they won't be needed much the next three years. 

That would be unwise. The whole point of rebuilding is filling a roster with young, inexpensive talent and then eventually supplementing that core with established players who fit. Look at what the Cubs did. Look at what the Astros are doing now, adding older players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick to fill in the holes around Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

For that reason, a player like Seth Smith would be a worthwhile addition for the Phillies.

Smith, 34, makes $7 million in 2017, the final year of his contract with the Mariners. When Mackanin discusses "professional hitters," Smith is the type. He has one of the better batting eyes in baseball, chasing about eight percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone the last three years than the league average.

He's a career .261/.344/.447 hitter who averages 29 doubles, 16 homers, 56 walks and 102 strikeouts per 162 games.

The left-handed Smith can play both outfield corners, and he's always been very effective against right-handed pitching. He has a .272 career batting average with an .827 OPS against righties compared to .202 with a .594 OPS vs. lefties. 

Smith is a fit for the Phillies for several reasons. They need more offense from the corner outfield. Logically, that outfielder should be a left-handed hitter because the Phillies' projected middle of the order has four right-handed bats in Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Kendrick.

Furthermore, Smith, unlike Saunders, for example, does not require everyday playing time. Smith shouldn't start against lefties. That would provide opportunities to Altherr and Quinn in 2017, while protecting against ineffectiveness from Altherr and another injury to Quinn.

And lastly, Smith is not going to cost anything meaningful via trade. He's a 34-year-old platoon player in the final year of his deal. The Phillies could likely land him for an insignificant prospect, perhaps a pitcher who had a high strikeout rate last season in the low levels of the minor leagues. 

For Seattle, it would be more of a salary dump. The Mariners' 2016 payroll is already $20 million more than it was last year, and per reports, they seem willing to spend to improve their starting rotation.

Smith is not a game-changer, that's not the argument here. He's not J.D. Martinez, a much bigger name and better player. Martinez would also fit the Phillies as a one-year option, and they'd likely be interested in keeping him around longer if they could acquire him. But any trade with the Tigers for Martinez wouldn't be nearly as painless for the Phils as acquiring Smith. 

So perhaps more than other available outfielders, Smith would be an offensive upgrade and a player who fits the Phillies' goal of improving without stunting a top prospect's growth.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.