The Eagles on Friday signed running back Jay Ajayi for the rest of the 2019 season, but based on what’s written into the contract, the Eagles will basically have the option to bring him back in 2020.
Here’s the report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Interesting tidbit to #Eagles RB Jay Ajayi’s contract with his new team. It includes a right of first refusal for the team during the 2020 offseason, source said. That means Philly can match any offer Ajayi receives.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 18, 2019
So basically, Ajayi will kind of be a restricted free agent at the lowest (right of first refusal) level. That means the Eagles have the option to match a contract and keep the player, but won’t get compensation back if he goes elsewhere like a higher-level tendered player. The Eagles will still be eligible for a compensatory pick if Ajayi signs elsewhere and they don't match the offer.
This is an interesting wrinkle to Ajayi’s contract, especially in the entire scope of the Eagles’ running back situation.
Because, remember, Jordan Howard is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. As long as he’s able to return from this stinger soon, he would be a realistic candidate to get an extension before the end of the season. But, to me, this part of Ajayi’s contract is sort of like an insurance policy if the Eagles aren’t able to re-sign Howard during free agency. Or if they choose to move on from Howard.
The Eagles seem to like having a running back rotation and the only running back guaranteed to return in 2020 is Miles Sanders. Either Howard or a healthy Ajayi (we’ll see) would seemingly be a good complement.
I say we’ll see because Ajayi hasn’t played football in over a year. He signed on Friday, but Doug Pederson opted to not play him two days later. During his career, Ajayi has been a very productive runner, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
But Ajayi, 26, tore his ACL last season and already had long-standing knee issues, so there’s some serious doubt about his football future. Ajayi will have a chance to answer some of those questions in the final six games of the 2019 season.
“We will incorporate him,” Pederson said on Monday. “Again, if Jordan (Howard) … if he doesn't practice or whatever during the week then we definitely will get Jay ready to go.”
The Eagles at least took out an insurance policy of sorts. If Ajayi does have something left, they’ll have the option of bringing him back in 2020 no matter what other team is interested in him.