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.

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

The Phillies have scored just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie starting pitchers and the eventual outcome has been two losses to the Colorado Rockies the last couple of nights. The latest was an 8-2 setback on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). That followed an 8-1 loss on Monday night.

What's happening right now at Citizens Bank Park is ugly. The Phillies are in the midst of a freefall that has seen them lose 19 of their last 23 games. They have been outscored 134-91 over that span.

Now, before we completely lose perspective here, the Phillies remain a building team and they were not expected to contend this season. But they weren't supposed to be this bad, either, and right now they are embarrassingly bad at 15-28.

John Middleton, the team's fiery managing partner, watched several innings of Tuesday night's debacle sitting beside Andy MacPhail in the club president's box. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. Middleton is committed to a patient rebuild from the ground up, but he's also a man who has made it no secret that he likes to win a little. The show that the Phillies are putting on out on the field these days can't sit well with him. Surely it's not sitting well with the fans. Tuesday night's attendance was just 17,109, the lowest of the season, and many in that group headed home after Gerardo Parra's sixth-inning homer gave the Rockies an 8-1 lead.

"We're just in a big rut right now," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis added that he couldn't remember going through anything this bad.

"We have to keep grinding," he said. "Keep grinding, man. It's pretty tough right now."

Tuesday night's loss offered a tale of two young pitchers. Zach Eflin, the Phillies' 23-year-old right-hander and a veteran of just 18 big-league starts, was hit hard. Meanwhile, German Marquez, the Rockies' 22-year-old rookie, was impressive. He held the Phillies to one run over six innings. He twice faced bases-loaded jams and gave up just one run when he walked a batter.

On Monday night, the Phils were held to one run over seven innings by another rookie, Jeff Hoffman.

Rookie pitchers are often good medicine for struggling teams.

"That's the way I look at it," Mackanin said. "Unfortunately it hasn't happened.

"I know we're better than this. I think the team knows they're better than this. I can't fault the hustle. Someone might say there's no energy. Well, when you don't get any hits, there's no energy."

The Phillies have scored just three runs in the last three games.

The scarcity of runs gives the pitching very little room for error. But in this game, Eflin simply did not keep it close. He gave up 10 hits and eight runs over six innings of work. Phillies killer Charlie Blackmon torched Eflin for a pair of two-run homers and Parra got him for a solo shot.

"A poor outing," Mackanin said of Eflin's work. "He couldn't locate. The ball was up in the zone. He's struggling to keep the ball down.

"When he struck out Blackmon in the first inning, it was a two-seamer with great movement, I thought we're in for a good outing here. But then he couldn't keep the ball down. You have to pitch down or you're going to get hurt."

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

"It's frustrating, but it happens. It's baseball," he said. "There are going to be a lot of times in my career where I give up a lot of hits and a lot of runs. But I'm really not worried about it right now. I know that I'm going to continue to work hard and go out every fifth day and, you know, put up a line of winning baseball."

Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He has three multi-homer games in Philadelphia.

"He seems to like hitting here," Eflin said. "But I just have to execute pitches. There's no excuse. I just have to be on top of my game."

Right now, the Phillies are at the bottom of their game.

"We have to stay together as a team and keep fighting, try to get out of what's happening right now," Galvis said. "It's a really tough situation, but we have keep playing hard."

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators bounced back nicely two days after a blowout loss put them on the brink of elimination.

Anderson stopped 45 shots, Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 36-year-old Anderson was coming off a pair of rough outings, including Sunday when he was pulled after yielding four goals in Ottawa's 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh.

"You can't change what happens in the past," said Anderson, who has credited work with a sports psychologist early in his career for helping him manage the mental side of the game. "From that moment on you have to look forward and get ready for the next one."

Hoffman fired a slap shot through traffic off a pass from Fredrik Claesson to put the Senators ahead at 1:34 of the third. Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa.

It was quite a response after the drubbing in the previous game.

"I think the biggest message for us was if somebody told us back in training camp in September that we'd have an opportunity to win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference final at home in front of our fans we would've taken it," Ryan said. "So let's not dwell, let's not kick ourselves and put our heads down. Let's embrace this opportunity to extend this for two more days together and go from there."

Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves.

"I thought we played a real good game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn't score tonight. The puck didn't go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we'll get the result."

Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start -- which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. It was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Anderson then stopped 22 of 23 shots in the second period.

"I think Anderson was the reason that they got this one, he played big for them," Murray said. "But in our room we just focus on what we need to do. We played really well, we just didn't get the bounces and weren't able to put one home."

Anderson's performance was a reminder for Senators coach Guy Boucher of why he took the job with Ottawa in the first place last May.

"I'll be honest with you, if I didn't have a No. 1 goalie, I didn't want the job," Boucher said. "I've lived it for quite a few years, and it's hell when you don't have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there's nothing that really matters when you don't have a real No. 1 goaltender.

"It's like a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and we have it," Boucher added.

Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan.

The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin -- three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players behind Jaromir Jagr -- who had been jarring with Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Senators had little going until a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24 just past the midway point of the period. The Ottawa power play, which had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games, came through with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side to tie the score.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who is second on the Senators behind captain Erik Karlsson (16 points).