PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles’ high-stakes offseason is off and rolling after receiver AJ Brown’s comments about his good friend Jalen Hurts’ contract situation.
“Listen, I love Philly,” he said during an appearance on the Raw Room podcast last week. “If you don’t pay this man, just ship me off to wherever he finna go. So you talk about pressure: [General manager] Howie [Roseman]Get it done.
Roseman and CEO Jeff Lurie have been publicly signaling they intend to re-sign Hurts, who has one year left on his rookie deal and is now eligible for an extension. Lurie said during Super Bowl week Hurts has nothing left to prove to be considered the long-term answer at quarterback. Roseman added recently that it is a “priority for us” to make sure Hurts remains an Eagle long-term.
There’s a good chance Brown gets his wish, and soon, as the Eagles have plenty of incentive to move quickly. Let’s take a closer look at the different variables at play, the kind of money Hurts could be commanding and what it means for the franchise moving forward.
How big of a pay day are we talking about?
The floor is north of $45 million per year for upper-level quarterbacks. That was established by recent contracts handed out to Aaron Rodgers ($50.2 million avg.), Russell Wilson ($49 million), Kyler Murray ($46.1 million) and Deshaun Watson ($46 million).
Watson’s contract is the outlier, with the Cleveland Browns guaranteeing the entire $230 million deal, while the average guarantees for Rodgers, Wilson and Murray come in at around $160 million.
What’s the rush to get a Hurts deal done?
He’s under contract for the 2023 season at $4.2 million. While there’s an argument for holding off on an extension, the counter-argument is stronger for moving swiftly if the Eagles are sold on Hurts — and it appears they are after an MVP-level season that culminated in a trip to Super Bowl LVII.
With the salary cap ever on the rise in the NFL, it’s long been a team philosophy to lock up core players as early as possible before the price inevitably goes up. Adding to the urgency in this situation is the fact that Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are in line for mega-contracts, too. It makes good business sense to complete negotiations with Hurts before one of those QBs resets the market with his deal.
What’s the risk?
As spectacular as Hurts was this season, he hasn’t had the opportunity to demonstrate he can sustain that high level of play over an extended period of time. He showed promise over his first two years in the league but not enough to keep the front office from taking a look at some other QB options as recently as last offseason.
Hurts dealt with injuries each of the last two years: He had ankle surgery following the 2021 season and sprained the SC joint in his throwing shoulder this past December against the Chicago Bears. Those injuries cost him just three games total but both forced him to play through pain down the stretch. His style of play lends itself to getting hits. Hurts ranks second in QB contacts (375) since the start of the 2021 season.
The last time the Eagles handed out a long-term contract to a quarterback it didn’t go so hot, with Carson Wentz falling off dramatically not long after signing a four-year, $128 million contract in 2019. The Indianapolis Colts after the following season, they absorbed a $33.8 million dead cap hit, the largest in NFL history at the time.
Roseman, though, suggested that the past is not giving him cold feet when it comes to committing to hurts.
“Each example is on its own. And you’ve got to look at the individual player, and that’s not to be critical to anyone we’ve given a contract to that hasn’t worked out,” he said. “But I think when we talk about Jalen, we’re talking about a guy we have tremendous confidence in, a guy that we want to be here for a long time.”
Any chance of a team-friendly deal?
Yes and no.
Hurts’ contract is likely going to come in close to $50 million per season, and you can bet his agent Nicole Lynn is looking out for the financial interests of her client. It’s going to be a big chunk of the pie any way you slice it. The Eagles simply won’t have the same amount of financial flexibility to build a roster as they did when Hurts was on a rookie contract.
As it stands, Philadelphia has 19 pending unrestricted free agents, including 11 starters, on a team desperate to get back to the Super Bowl. But when it comes to the structure of the deal, the bet here is Hurts will be open to whatever creative ideas the front office might have to ease the hit in the name of retaining as much talent as possible.
When asked about his contract situation during a locker cleanout recently, Hurts said: “The thing that I’m most focused on is winning. The only thing I care about is winning,” he said, “and ultimately winning championships.”