Why Jalen Hurts’ Eagles contract could depend more on this QB not getting the franchise tag

There’s a good chance Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is just as anxious about the franchise tag as the Eagles player most likely to receive it in safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

But Hurts’ rationale is for an entirely different reason, even though he would dread the tag’s use just as much as Gardner-Johnson.

And that has as much to do with Hurts’ benchmark for a contract extension. Already, Hurts found out that free agent Derek Carr is signing a four-year deal worth reportedly as much as $150 million with the New Orleans Saints.

That’s an average annual value of $37.5 million for a quarterback who’s not much better than average.

The same is true of Seahawks QB Geno Smith, who is reportedly re-signing for three years and as much as $105 million.

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It’s safe to assume that Hurts can command a lot more. That doesn’t make Carr or Smith suitable benchmarks for Hurts. And in a way, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson isn’t a benchmark either. Jackson and the Ravens are headed towards the franchise tag on Tuesday after they’ve been at an impasse for more than a year.

The franchise tag for quarterbacks is $32 million for this coming season, all of which counts on the salary cap.

And Hurts’ benchmark isn’t the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (average annual value $45 million per season), Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson (fully guaranteed $46 million per season), Arizona’s Kyler Murray ($46 million), Denver’s Russell Wilson ($49 million), or even Aaron Rodgers ($50 million) − and whatever team his recently-completed darkness retreat leads him to.

Instead, it’s the Giants’ Daniel Jones. Yes, that Daniel Jones whose career record is 21-31-1, who has a career passer rating of 86.5.

The Giants want to sign Jones to a long-term contract, but Jones is reportedly asking for more than $40 million per season. The Giants don’t necessarily want to go the franchise-tag route, even though that will mean a $32 million contract for this season.

And if Jones gets his asking price, or anything close to that, then Hurts will be resetting the quarterback market. No doubt, Hurts is hoping that Jones gets every penny.

Just look at the numbers.

Jones had by far his best season in 2022, completing 67.2% of his passes for 3,205 yards with 15 TDs against just 5 interceptions and a passer rating of 92.5. He also ran for 708 yards and 7 TDs.

But through four seasons, Jones’ completion percentage is 64%, with 60 TDs and 34 INTs.

Hurts also had by far his best season in 2022, completing 66.5% of his passes, throwing for 3,701 yards and 22 TDs with 6 INTs and a passer rating of 101.5. Hurts also ran for 760 yards and 13 TDs. Through three seasons, Hurts has a completion percentage of 62.3% with 44 TDs and 19 INTs, and a passer rating of 92.2.

Hurts’ record is 23-11, including 14-1 last season. He was one Eagles’ defensive stop away from being the Super Bowl MVP.

The Giants, it seems, would rather sign Jones and use the franchise tag on running back Saquon Barkley.

For a running back, the tag is $10.1 million, a savings of $22 million over franchising Jones. If the Giants franchise Jones, Barkley will become a free agent.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates after running on the field for the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

This could be why Hurts doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to sign a contract extension. The Eagles have made it clear that they want to do a deal during this offseason rather than after the season.

Hurts still has one year left on his rookie contract, which counts $4.9 million against the salary cap, a veritable bargain for a quarterback who finished as the MVP runner-up and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman, speaking last week at the NFL Scouting Combine, said that the Eagles want to find something that’s a “win-win” for both the Eagles and Hurts. Then he added: “That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a tremendous contract for him because he deserves that, too.”

Sure, the Eagles could wait until next offseason before signing Hurts to that extension.

But the Eagles don’t want to go that route. By signing Hurts during this offseason, they can start spacing out Hurts’ signing bonus over the life of the contract.

That will add a good $10-15 million to Hurts’ $4.9 million cap charge in 2023. But that’s still a bargain for an MVP-caliber quarterback. And the Eagles can make the salary cap hits in future years somewhat more manageable with voidable years.

Watson, for example, counts $55 million on the Browns’ cap in each of the next four seasons. That’s approximately one-fourth of the team’s total cap for this season alone, estimated at $225 million.

If the Eagles wait, they’ll save money on the cap this season. But they will pay dearly afterwards, especially considering that 2020 first-round picks in Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa will be eligible for extensions after this season.

And if quarterback salaries are already skyrocketing, imagine what they will be next year for Burrow, Herbert and Tagovailoa.

Sure, the Eagles can go the franchise tag route with Hurts next March, and possibly again the following year. But that’s only prolonging the inevitable. If the Eagles see Hurts as the franchise quarterback for the next five years at least, then the Eagles will be saving money in the long run by giving him that payday now.

Hurts knows this too. He also knows that he might be leaving money on the table by signing now. Maybe Hurts will be fine with that, but it can’t hurt to see if Jones and the Giants agree to a new deal first.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Why Eagles Jalen Hurts next contact could depend on Giants Daniel Jones

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