While the Eagles are expected to fly under the radar — Haloti Ngata aside — a little bit during free agency thanks to limited cap space, it’s important to remember they’ve already done a lot of their heavy lifting.
During their Super Bowl season, Howie Roseman locked up WR Alshon Jeffery and DT Tim Jernigan with four-year contract extensions, keeping them in Philly through the 2021 season.
If the Birds didn’t do that, Jeffery and Jernigan would top the list of 16 soon-to-be free agents from the Super Bowl team and there would probably be a lot more panic among Eagles fans, especially after seeing some numbers roll in on Tuesday morning.
Two of the top receivers on the free agent market reportedly agreed to new contracts the day before free agency officially opens, according to NFL Network. First, the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins to a three-year deal worth $48 million, with $30 million guaranteed. And the Bears signed Allen Robinson to a three-year deal worth $42 million, with around $25 million guaranteed.
While Jeffery didn’t put up monster numbers in 2017, his deal with the Eagles is looking more like a slight bargain now. Jeffery’s four-year deal — signed on Dec. 2 — is worth $52.25 million, with $27.25 million guaranteed, according to OverTheCap.
So Watkins’ average annual salary is $16M, Robinson’s is $14M and Jeffery’s is just over $13M.
Now, it’s fair to point out that Jeffery just turned 28, while Watkins and Robinson are both still just 24. But Watkins and Robinson aren’t without their flaws. Watkins has had just one 1,000-yard season in his four years and is coming off a 39-catch, 593-yard season with the Rams. He’s never lived up to being the fourth pick in the 2014 draft. And Robinson has shown incredible ability, but he’s coming off a torn ACL.
Jeffery wasn’t able to get back to another 1,000-yard season, but he played well in 2017 (with a torn rotator cuff) and had 12 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ playoff run, including a big performance in Super Bowl LII. If the Eagles didn’t lock him up, he was going to be a hot name on the market.
Then there’s Jernigan. There haven’t been a lot of deals to compare his to yet, but let’s remember what his deal looks like: Four years, $48 million, with $25 million guaranteed. After a hot start in 2017, Jernigan cooled down later in the season, perhaps hampered by a lingering ankle injury.
But locking up Jernigan and Jeffery during the season went a long way in locking up the future of the team for the next several years. The Eagles have 19 players under contract through the 2020 season (that’s a lot) including Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Brandon Brooks, Malcolm Jenkins and others. Now, things in the NFL are flexible and eventually, they’ll need to find a way to pay Carson Wentz over $30 million annually, but for now, things look good.
That’s important to remember if it seems like the Eagles are having a quiet offseason.