What a difference a year makes. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was considered a big question mark after last season's 31-15 wild card playoff loss to the Buccaneers that was more lopsided than the score. The Buccaneers had a huge advantage at quarterback with Tom Brady, who had an MVP-worthy season.
Acquiring a 2023 first-round pick in a trade with the Saints last April prompted speculation that the Eagles were amassing draft capital to select a franchise quarterback if Hurts didn't show dramatic improvement during his third NFL season. Hurts quickly started erasing doubts this season about being the answer at quarterback. The 2020 second-round pick was named September's NFC Offensive Player of the Month.
Hurts was the favorite for NFL MVP when a sprained right (throwing) shoulder in a Week 15 contest against the Bears sidelined him for two games. The Eagles losing both games Hurts missed ended a narrative that he was the product of an extremely talented roster rather than a catalyst for Philadelphia's success.
Hurts, who is still bothered by the shoulder injury, led the Eagles to a 14-1 record as a starter. He completed 66.5% of his passes (306 of 460 attempts) for 3,701 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions to post a 101.6 passer rating, which was fourth-best in the NFL.
Hurts added 760 yards on the ground, which was fourth in the NFL among quarterbacks. His 13 rushing touchdowns were tied for second-most in the league.
Hurts was named to his first Pro Bowl and was a second team All-Pro. He is a finalist for the Associated Press 2022 NFL MVP.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is sold on Hurts. He told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio at Super Bowl LVII Opening Night on Monday that Hurts has "nothing to prove" to be viewed as the long-term solution at quarterback. "He's just what we're looking for," Lurie added. A timetable for negotiations wasn't given.
The Eagles are one of the NFL's most proactive teams in locking up core players well in advance of free agency. Executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman has continued the practice that former longtime Eagles president Joe Banner started.
Hurts is entering his contract year in 2023. He is scheduled to make $4.304 million on a $4,789,486 salary cap number.
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.
Wentz became the NFL's fourth-highest-paid player by average yearly salary at $32 million per year with his extension. 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 is an anomaly as subsequent high-end quarterback deals, particularly Murray and Russell Wilson's, with the Cardinals and Broncos, respectively, weren't fully guaranteed. A fully guaranteed contract is likely a deal-breaker for Lurie.
Murray's $46.1 million-per-year deal should be Hurts' reasonable worst-case scenario with a new contract. The first overall pick of the 2019 draft signed a five-year, $230.5 million extension worth up to $238 million through salary escalators last July when training camp started. There's $160 million in overall guarantees where $103.3 million was fully guaranteed at signing. An additional $29.5 million in latter years of Murray's contract, which isn't guaranteed for injury at signing, can also become completely secure to bring the total amount that can be guaranteed to $189.5 million.
Murray performed terribly in the one playoff game, a 34-11 loss to the eventual Super Bowl LVI champion Rams last season, of his four-year NFL career. He has also never been a legitimate NFL MVP candidate or a second team All-Pro like Hurts is this season.
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There are aspects of Murray's contract that Roseman surely would like to include in a Hurts extension that should be objectionable. For example, Murray has $850,000 in annual per game roster bonuses in his 2024 through 2028 contract years. The $50,000 per game amount is only payable if Murray is on the 48-man active roster for that particular game. Missing 10 games in one of those seasons will cost Murray $500,000.
Murray is the only quarterback with a lucrative contract that has per game roster bonuses. The Eagles didn't insist on per game roster bonuses with Wentz although he had an injury history. Wentz was a leading candidate for NFL MVP in 2017 when he tore multiple ligaments in his left knee near the end of the season. A stress fracture in Wentz's back also ended his 2018 season early.
Murray also has unusually large workout bonuses in his contract beginning in 2023 for a total of $9.315 million. The five-year extension offer worth nearly $250 million with $133 million fully guaranteed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson reportedly rejected before cutting off negotiations shortly before the regular season started, purportedly had $2.5 million in annual salary de-escalators if he didn't participate in some unspecified high percentage of offseason workouts. Wentz didn't have workout bonuses or workout salary de-escalators in his contract.
An Eagles Super Bowl win, especially as the game's MVP, would bolster Hurts' case to become the NFL's highest-paid player. That's what happened with Joe Flacco in 2013.
Flacco was able to parlay an amazing 2012 playoff run in which the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, while he took MVP honors, into a six-year, $120.6 million deal, averaging $20.1 million per year that briefly made him the league's highest-paid player. He had been a slightly above-average quarterback at best in the seasons prior to his stellar postseason, which was easily the best four-game stretch of his career. Flacco has never been selected to the Pro Bowl or earned All-Pro honors. By contrast, Hurts has demonstrated he can consistently perform at the highest level this season.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's current salary standard bearer at $50,271,667 per year. He became the NFL's first $50 million-per-year player last March with a contract widely considered to be $150.815 million over three years, although there are two additional below-market years (2025 and 2026) in the deal. He established new benchmarks for guaranteed money in football contracts with $150.665 million in total guarantees and $101.515 million fully guaranteed at signing until Watson's fully guaranteed contract a couple of weeks later.
Hurts should still be in a great position, even with a poor performance in a Super Bowl loss, if Jared Goff is any indication. Goff was in the NFL MVP conversation in 2018 until a late-season slump, which preceded a horrible performance in a Super Bowl LIII loss to the Patriots. Nonetheless, the Rams signed Goff to a four-year, $134 million extension (worth as much as $147.95 million because of incentives and salary escalators) that tied him with Rodgers as the league's second-highest-paid player by average yearly salary at $33.5 million per year. The $110,042,682 of guarantees in the deal was an NFL record when Goff signed.
Wilson is currently the league's second highest paid at $49 million per year on the five-year, $245 million extension he signed shortly before the start of the regular season. His deal contains $165 million in guarantees with $124 million fully guaranteed at signing, which is second-most ever in an NFL contract.
The Eagles probably would like to tie Hurts up for at least five new years with a new contract given the length of Murray and Wilson's extensions, the most recent high-end quarterback data points, as well as Josh Allen's with the Bills in 2021. Allen signed a six-year, $258 million extension (worth a maximum of $288 million through incentives) with two years remaining on his rookie contract. The $43 million-per-year extension made Allen the NFL's second-highest-paid player at the time.
Hurts should consider insisting on an extension no longer than four years to be best positioned for the expected significant salary cap growth in the coming years thanks to new media-rights deals reportedly worth $113 billion over 11 years and an influx of gambling revenue. Four new years was the most common length for high-end quarterback contracts, especially with first-round pick extensions, before the Chiefs signed Patrick Mahomes to a 10-year extension in 2020 when he had two years remaining on his rookie contract, as evidenced by Goff and Wentz's deals.
Giving Hurts the second most overall guarantees, if not also full guarantee, behind Watson's $230 million, is probably going to be necessary to get a deal done. That would be more than Wilson's $124 million fully guaranteed at signing and $165 million in overall guarantees.
The Eagles should have more of a sense of urgency for a deal than Hurts. A contract extension for 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow is an offseason priority for the Bengals. The expectation is Burrow will reset the quarterback market. Going after Burrow is done almost certainly will be more costly for the Eagles whether Hurts comes in ahead or behind him in the NFL salary hierarchy.