For the last month of the 2019, the Eagles finally saw how much a healthy Tim Jernigan can help their defensive line.
Will that be enough reason to bring him back?
That’s a question the Eagles will have to ask themselves this offseason as Jernigan is set to become a free agent. On one hand, when Jernigan is healthy, he’s been pretty good and Jim Schwartz has previously said Jernigan “means something to our spirit.” And he’s still just 27.
On the other hand, Jernigan has struggled to stay healthy the last few years and the Eagles might not be able to rely on him.
An emotional Jernigan spoke to our Derrick Gunn just after the playoff loss earlier this month and was well aware his future is up in the air.
It hit different when you’re a free agent because you don’t know what’s going to happen with you. At the end of the day, man, as long as my teammates know that I gave everything I had on Sunday, when those lights turned on, I gave y’all everything I had. I’m at peace with that.
“However it turns out with me in this free agency thing, I’m at peace with that. As long as y’all boys know I gave y’all everything I had. The city knows I gave them everything I had. It’s always love from here, from me there’s always love.
As of earlier this month, Jernigan said he and the Eagles hadn’t had any discussions about a possible contract. That doesn’t mean they won’t.
Remember, the Eagles traded for Jernigan before the 2017 and he played really well that season before an ankle injury began to limit him. Still, he started 15 regular season games that year and all three in the playoffs, including Super Bowl LII.
He played well enough that during the 2017 season, the Eagles gave him a four-year extension worth up to $48 million.
But then Jernigan hit some hard times. He suffered a mysterious back injury in the offseason and needed surgery. Jernigan still hasn’t said publicly how he suffered the injury. He and the team renegotiated the deal and Jernigan played just three regular season games in 2018, but then played in the playoffs. He fought his way back.
Last offseason, the Eagles unsurprisingly declined the option on his renegotiated contract but still signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million for the 2019 season. Jernigan hurt his foot early in the season in 2019 but returned to play 10 games and eventually played at a pretty high level.
So, yeah, there have been some ups and downs.
“I’ve been through a lot the last two years,” Jernigan said. “I’ve had my highs and lows, I’ve had my times where I didn’t know if I was gonna make it. I went through every emotion but I made it. That’s definitely a positive to take from the season. I was able to finish this thing the right way.”
The Eagles know they’ll have Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at defensive tackle in 2020. It would seem like Jernigan would be an obvious choice to be the third guy in the rotation but Hassan Ridgeway is also going to be a free agent and is two years younger.
But Ridgeway hasn’t been able to stay healthy either. He’s actually played one fewer game than Jernigan over the last two seasons and he hasn’t had the highs, especially not in this city.
There’s a decent chance the Eagles try to bring Jernigan back for another season. But if it doesn’t happen, there won’t be hard feelings on Jernigan’s side.
“Either way it go, whether I’m with the Eagles next year or I’m not,” Jernigan said, “I can promise you, I am one of those people, I’ll always be around this city, you know what I’m saying? I’m gonna always be around this city, even a long time from now. I met people away from football that I found love for. It’s love from me.
“If I ain’t here, then y’all know what it is, man. I’m six years into my career, 27 years old, I can always end up back here. It ain’t over till it’s over, man.”
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