Eagles should want to get a Jalen Hurts contract extension done sooner than later

Jalen Hurts has improved leaps and bounds since his playoff debut in last season’s 31-15 wild-card loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

After that matchup, Hurts headed west to retool his throwing motion and mechanics, while months of speculation started to build up after Eagles GM Howie Roseman acquired a 2023 first-round pick in a trade with the Saints prompting speculation that Philadelphia could use draft assets on a quarterback if the former Alabama star didn’t show vast improvement.

Hurts more than improved in 2022, leading the Eagles (14-3) to the Super Bowl, while amassing Pro Bowl, All-Pro, and MVP nominations.

Now comes the tricky part, as Philadelphia will look to strike first and get Hurts under contract while keeping the team competitive in an improving NFC.

The Cincinnati Bengals want Joe Burrow’s extension done, the Baltimore Ravens want Lamar Jackson’s extension done and the Los Angeles Chargers want to pay Justin Herbert, further complicating negotiations.

With the NFL’s new league year fast approaching, here’s a breakdown of Hurts’ potential new deal, and why the Eagles have urgency to get it done.

Eagles naturally want to strike first

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The Eagles have always been fair and early when it comes to projecting contract extensions.

Donovan McNabb’s 9-year, $70 million deal came prior to Howie Roseman joining the organization on a full-time basis.

Roseman is a disciple of Joe Banner and learned his penchant for signing big-name players to team-friendly deals before the player hits free agency.

The next big-named quarterback was Michael Vick, who received a 2-year, $6.8 million deal upon returning to the NFL in 2009.

After McNabb was traded to Washington, Vick received the franchise tag ($16M) before Philadelphia then signed him to a six-year, $100 million contract with $40 million guaranteed.

At that time, Vick’s per year base salary of $16.7 million was only less than then Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ($18.01) and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning ($18 million), but it was more than N.Y. Giants quarterback Eli Manning ($16.25 million) and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers ($15.3 million).

A few years after Vick moved on, Philadelphia acquired quarterback Sam Bradford from the Rams in 2015 and then signed him to a deal worth $36 million ($18M per) over two years, with $26 million guaranteed.

2023 NFL Free agency

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Philadelphia can’t have a totally clear view of what can be spent and the available money for free agents and extensions until the Hurts domino falls.

Signing Hurts frees up $2 million and allows Howie Roseman the ability to navigate a tight free-agent market.

Market reset

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Getting a deal done before other extension-eligible quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Lamar Jackson get done would avoid another team dictating the terms of the new floor for his deal.

Philadelphia has no problem paying Hurts, but you don’t want a less accomplished Justin Herbert hitting $55 million per season.

Hurts progression

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A 2020 second-round pick, Hurts signed a 4-year, $6,025,171 contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, including a $1,941,944 signing bonus, $2,825,815 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $1,506,293. In 2022, Hurts earned a base salary of $1,082,744 and a workout bonus of $75,000 while carrying a cap hit of $1,643,230 and a dead cap value of $970,972.

Over his first two seasons, Hurts had a 59% completion percentage with 4,063 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and 1,056 rushing yards.

In year three, he exploded for 3,701 yards passing, 22 touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 66.7 QBR. He added 760 yards on the ground and 13 rushing touchdowns as well.

Hurts, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray share similar numbers over their first two years, with the Cardinals star being the more efficient passer.

After an All-Pro season and MVP candidacy, only Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, and Patrick Mahomes can viewed as better players at the position currently, with Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson in that circle as well.

Free up $2M in salary cap space

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Hurts is entering his contract year in 2023. He is scheduled to make $4.304 million on a $4,789,486 salary cap number.

An extension automatically creates $2 million in cap space.

Roseman shouldn’t have any issue, at a minimum, treating Hurts like he did Carson Wentz, his predecessor. Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension in June 2019 after his third NFL season containing a then NFL record $107,870,683 of guarantees with $66 million fully guaranteed at signing. The deal was worth up to $144 million through salary escalators. As 2016’s second overall pick, Wentz had two years remaining on his rookie contract because of a fifth-year option in 2020.

Where Hurts ranks among his peers

Nfl Super Bowl Lvii Kansas City Chiefs Vs Philadelphia Eagles

Back in 2019, Carson Wentz became the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid player by average yearly salary at $32 million per year with his extension. Prior to this season, doing the same for Hurts would mean putting him above Deshaun Watson and below Kyler Murray on the NFL pay scale.

The Browns gave Watson a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract, averaging $46 million per year, in connection with his trade from the Texans last March. The Watson contract was an anomaly.

Following his trade to the Cleveland Browns, DeShaun Watson saw his rise to $46 million guaranteed per season.

Of the players in the top 10, only Mahomes can be considered a better player with Josh Allen, Watson, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, and Dak Prescott all making at least $40 million per year, and all now under Hurts on the pecking order.

Murray’s $46.1 million-per-year deal should be Hurts’ worst-case scenario with a new contract, while Aaron Rodgers’s $50M per year is a possibility.

Highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL 2023

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The NFL’s quarterback market has exploded over the last decade, as it is now the most important position in the league.

With the salary cap set to increase, the tier for salaries will increase as well.

Per Over The Cap At $50 million a year, Aaron Rodgers tops the list.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had the highest average salary entering the 2022 offseason at $45 million per year, but he was leapfrogged by Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson.

Rodgers signed a new extension worth under $50.3 million per year.

Following his trade to the Cleveland Browns, DeShaun Watson saw his rise to $46 million guaranteed per season.

Watson, Mahomes, Josh Allen, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, and Dak Prescott all now make at least $40 million per year while Rodgers is the only player making $50 million per season.

Final analysis

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If Jalen Hurts is looking “to be one of the two or three highest-paid players (based on average annual value) in the game, then the five-year, $230.5 million that Arizona gave Kyler Murray is likely the basement of any deal, with the five-year, $245,000,000 deal that Russell Wilson signed with Denver as an appropriate ceiling for a quarterback looking to maintain room to upgrade the roster.

Story originally appeared on Eagles Wire