Free Agency Round-up: Quick Thoughts on DeSean's Extension

Free Agency Round-up: Quick Thoughts on DeSean's Extension

1. Only $15 million guaranteed.

Was a long-term deal the right way to go with DeSean Jackson? There are a lot of questions out there right now, about his performance, about his durability, about his attitude. The franchise tag seemed like the safe way to go, because even though it was a ton of cash, it was only for one year.

Naturally, folks tend to focus on the five years and $51 million part, but the general consensus in the media is this was a safe contract for DJacc. Just $15 million of the sum is fully guaranteed, most of that over the next two seasons. That means if Jackson becomes a problem in the locker room, or his ability falls off a cliff, the Eagles can still get away after a couple years.

When you look at it like that, Jackson has all the incentive in the world to produce at a high level, and be a model teammate. If the Eagles have to remove him, he will never even see 50% of that money, nor another contract like it ever again.

2. The market was set.

Say what you want about it being too much money, but the market says otherwise. Vincent Jackson, whose best season is not significantly better than DeSean's, took five years, $55 million off the Bucs -- $26 guaranteed. Pierre Garcon, the poor man's version of DeSean, received five years, $42.5 million from the Redskins -- $20.5 guaranteed. Marques Colston, the man of 1,004 knee surgeries, will earn $40 mil over the next five -- $19 guaranteed.

Even receivers with far lesser deals received similar or more bonus money. Stevie Johnson: $19.5 guaranteed. Laurent Robinson: $14. Robert Meachem: $14.

Say what you will about those players. Some of them you might take over DeSean, others still have to prove it. You can't look at Jackson's accolades over his four-year NFL career and say he doesn't deserve to be paid like these players though.

3. Frees up over $6 million in cap space.

Remember when we said the Eagles should dump Asante Samuel fast to create some breathing room? Forget it.

Jackson's new deal carries a paltry $3 million cap hit in 2012, $6.6 million less than it would have been had he signed the franchise tender. Take into consideration the additional $6 million the team saved by removing Winston Justice and Jamaal Jackson, and suddenly they are playing with a lot of money.

Which hasn't amounted to much in free agency, yet. Evan Mathis remains on the market, as do a bunch of quality middle linebackers. The front office is also said to be in negotiations with LeSean McCoy.

It sure seems like they are gearing up for something.

- Speaking of Mathis, he traveled to Baltimore last night to visit the Ravens. It seems Carl Nicks leaving New Orleans for Tampa Bay has caused a ripple effect at guard. Baltimore's Ben Grubbs joined the Saints, and now Philly's Mathis could wind up replacing him. Problem is, there aren't really any great options for replacing Mathis.

It's too early to panic. If Mathis was genuine about wanting to return, he should give the Birds a chance to match whatever offers come his way. But as the old free agency adage goes, once you get 'em in the building, don't let 'em leave -- and Mathis is in their building.

- The other big five-year, $50 million signing for Eagles fans happened 1,500 miles away in Arlington, where the Dallas Cowboys signed cornerback Brandon Carr away from the Chiefs. Dallas parted ways with long-time corner Terence Newman to make room for Carr, a 26 year old who is solid, but not a star or anything.

The Cowboys, who were a little desperate for secondary help, also added safety Brodney Pool, a player we hoped the Eagles might target for depth.

- The Giants fired the first shot of 2012 against one of their NFC East rivals. New York agreed to a one-year deal with Cowboys' backup tight end Martellus Bennett, though he figures to be much more than that for the G-men. Jake Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, which makes Bennett the front-runner to start. He has 85 catches for 846 yards and four TD's in a four-year career.

- Dimitri Patterson sighting: the Browns re-signed Patterson to a three-year deal after spending last season as their nickel corner. You may recall Patterson spent half a season in the Birds' starting lineup, to mostly disastrous results.

- Breaking update: the Redskins continue to slap together a makeshift roster in the wake of their devastating cap penalty, this time adding safety Brandon Meriweather. Meriweather, who was thought to be an Eagles' draft target back in '07, has gone from Pro Bowler to pin-balling around the league in one astonishing year.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.