Huge new contract for DeSean Jackson

703262.jpg

Huge new contract for DeSean Jackson

From Comcast SportsNet DeSean Jackson got his wish after all. Jackson agreed to a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday. The deal is worth 51 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because terms weren't officially announced. The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver already was tagged as the franchise player, meaning he would've earned at least 9.4 million next season. Now, he gets the long-term security he sought last year. Jackson held out last training camp because he wanted an extension and let the contract situation affect him. He was deactivated for a game for being late for a team meeting, dropped more passes than usual and his production dropped. But the Eagles are counting on Jackson to be the dynamic player he was in 2009-10. "We are thrilled to be able to keep one of the NFL's top playmakers in Philadelphia," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "DeSean is a game breaker. He has the speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field, and he has proven himself to be a big threat for our offense." Philadelphia stumbled to an 8-8 season last year, but closed with four consecutive victories, building momentum for 2012. The Eagles finished, despite a 4-8 start, just one game behind the New York Giants, who not only won the NFC East, but also the Super Bowl. Jackson has career totals of 229 receptions, 4,085 yards and 21 touchdowns in four years as an Eagle after being drafted out of Cal. He also has three rushing scores and a franchise-record four punt return touchdowns, as well. "Signing our own players was a big priority for us this offseason," Reid said. "And DeSean was certainly high on our list. We are very excited about his future as an Eagle." Jackson, 25, was named to the Pro Bowl following the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and is one of five players in NFL history to at least 900 yards receiving in each of his four seasons. Earlier in the day, defensive end Trent Cole and the Eagles agreed on a four-year contract extension through 2017, and on Tuesday, offensive tackle Todd Herremans agreed to a three-year contract extension through 2016. The Eagles also made a couple of roster moves, trading offensive lineman Winston Justice to Indianapolis and releasing former starting center Jamaal Jackson. Cole is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who ranks third on the team's all-time list for sacks with 68. He had 11 sacks in 2011, his fourth season with a double-digit total. "Trent plays the game with a level of tenacity that's hard to replicate," Reid said. "He's one of the premier defensive ends in the league." While Jackson's contract situation was somewhat contentious, Cole and Herremans never said a word about it. "I think that with Todd and me, we conducted business professionally, the way it's supposed to be conducted," Cole said. "We never went out to the media and complained. We did what we had to do to keep moving and we didn't cause any problems with the team and this atmosphere." With the key returnees, there's a feeling -- inside the organization, at least -- that Philadelphia will return to its status as a perennial playoff team in the NFC. "As the season went on, we started coming together a lot more and it showed by us winning our (last four) games," Herremans said. "We really feel that we don't need any extra pieces brought to us in free agency. We feel that the team we have in the locker room can make a great run and go to the Super Bowl next year." The Eagles spent plenty of money in free agency last year, signing several players with high pedigrees. They were expected to contend for the Super Bowl, and had to play under the "Dream Team" label that was attached to them by backup quarterback Vince Young, one of those high-priced signings that didn't pan out.

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

Jose Abreu has made quite a turnaround from being a guy who was admittedly lost to bashing the ball like Abreu of old.

From April 19th on, Abreu has hit at another level, reminiscent of the performances he put on throughout an eye-opening 2014 campaign in which he was the unanimous American League rookie of the year winner. Over that stretch, Abreu has slashed at an absurd .347/.404/.677 clip with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances.

Earlier this week, Abreu said the run is the product of trusting his tireless preparation.

"I struggled in the first few weeks of the season but I kept working," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Now I'm at this point where I feel very good and confident with my offense and things are going well for me. That's part of what you work for and if you work hard, you know the results will be there at the end of the day."

Two numbers that have improved significantly during Abreu's five-week tear are his average exit velocity and strikeout rate.

Abreu entered Wednesday 39th in the the majors with an average exit velocity of 90.5 mph this season, according to Baseball Savant.

But Abreu wasn't hitting the ball nearly as hard early this season, which was littered with weak contact. Abreu stumbled out of the gate with a .157 average, one extra-base hit and only five RBIs in his first 54 plate appearances. Through the first two weeks, Abreu's average exit velocity was 89.0 mph on 31 batted-ball events, which was slightly down from last season's 89.6 mph average and significantly down from 2015, when he averaged 90.9 mph.

Since then, however, Abreu has seen a significant increase in hard contact. Over his last 92 batted-ball events, Abreu is averaging 92.6 mph, a total that would qualify for 15th in the majors this season. Included in that span is 35 balls hit 100 mph or more.

But Abreu's success isn't just related to how hard he has hit the ball. He's also made much better contact this season and is striking out less than ever. Abreu struck out 14 times in his first 54 plate appearances (25.9 percent). But since then, he has whiffed only 17 times in 136 plate appearances, good for a 12.5 percent strikeout rate.

His season K-rate of 16.3 percent, according to Fangraphs.com, is down from a career mark of 19.6 percent.

"You have started to see him heat up a little," manager Rick Renteria said earlier this week. "He's given us solid at-bats. He's in a good place right now."

Actually, it's a great place and one Abreu hasn't done with consistency since 2015. He once again looks like the hitting machine he was for most of his first two seasons and the final two months of 2016.

Abreu is on pace to hit 36 home runs this season, which would match his 2014 total. His current wRC+ of 138 is his highest since he finished 2014 at 167.

Last season, Abreu didn't hit his 10th home run until June 18. He hit his 11th homer on June 23 and then didn't hit another until August 4. That stretch raised myriad questions both inside the organization and externally about whether or not Abreu would return to prominence as a hitter. Perhaps inspired by the August arrival of his son, Dariel, Abreu finished 2016 with a flurry, hitting .340/.402/.572 with 14 home runs in his final 241 plate appearances.

General manager Rick Hahn said last September that the stretch was important for White Sox evaluators to see.

"It certainly makes you more confident as you see him over the last six weeks, projecting out that he's going to be that same player that he was for the first two years of his career," Hahn said. "Earlier, when he was scuffling, you looked at some of the things he was doing from his approach or some of the mechanical issues he might have been having and you felt confident he was going to be able to get back. But in all candor, you like seeing the performance match what you're projecting and we've certainly seen that over the last six weeks."

The White Sox offense has benefitted from Abreu's leap back into prominence. The team has averaged 4.53 runs per game this season and is 9th in the American League with 204 runs scored and 17th overall in the majors. But the increase in offense still hasn't helped the White Sox improve in the standings. While Abreu is glad to be on the roll he is, he'd prefer if his team is along for the ride.

"We're are passing through a tough moment, a rough stretch," Abreu said. "For me as I've always said the team is first. I want to thank God for how I've performed through this rough stretch. But it's not something makes me feel happy because we didn't win as many games as we wanted to win. It's tough."

92 Days to Kickoff: Plano

planoslide.png

92 Days to Kickoff: Plano

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Plano

Head coach: Brad Kunz

How they fared in 2016: 7-3 (4-1 Interstate 8 Large), lost to Manteno in the 4A  opening round action.

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 25 – Johnsburg

Sept. 1 – @ Harvard

Sept. 8 – Herscher

Sept. 15 - @ Sandwich

Sept. 22 - Manteno

Sept. 29 – @ Coal City

Oct. 6 - Streator

Oct. 13 - Reed-Custer

Oct. 20 - @ Westmont

Biggest storyline: Can the Reapers reload?

Names to watch this season: Senior DB Mauricio Perez Senior DB Alec Chavez

Biggest holes to fill: The Reapers will need to replace 20 graduated starters from a season ago, and that group also included several multi-year starters for Plano.

EDGY's Early Take: The Reapers no question have work to do this summer, yet head coach Brad Kunz and staff always finds a way for Plano to compete in the Interstate 8 conference and beyond.