Earlier this week, SportsRadio 94WIP’s Howard Eskin reported Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan underwent surgery on a herniated disc. Eskin said Jernigan “will not participate in off season program,” which is a little vague, but now we have more specific details on his injury recovery timeline.
Eagles’ starting DT Timmy Jernigan underwent surgery on a herniated disc in his back last week and is expected to be out four-to-six months, league sources tell @FieldYates and me.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 3, 2018
Four months from today would be three days before the Eagles’ first regular season game on Thursday, September 6. Six months would put Jernigan back in early November, which means he could miss the first eight games of 2018. That’s certainly worse than originally thought.
I’m no medical expert, but I do know that back injuries are no joke, especially for 6-2, 300 pound defensive lineman. The fact that the Eagles and Jernigan have to agreed to a reworked contract reflects the team’s long-term concern about the injury.
Another layer to this story: the Eagles and Jernigan have agreed to a reworked contract, in which the final three years of Jernigan’s deal are now option years with no guaranteed money. Philly will evaluate his health as part of the decision going forward. https://t.co/D4WaXnFW7M— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 3, 2018
If you’re wondering why Jernigan would agree to taking a less favorable deal, here’s more information from ESPN.
The injury easily could have ended Jernigan’s time in Philadelphia, with the Eagles releasing him and declining to pay him being that he suffered the injury during an off-season workout in March. But in a generous gesture, the Eagles reworked his contract and now will pay him $3 million guaranteed this season, but no longer will be liable for the $11 million guaranteed that was due next season, as part of the four-year $48M extension he signed after being acquired in a trade with Baltimore.
Jernigan underwent the back surgery last week with Dr. Robert Watkins, per a source.
Under terms of the new contract, the final three years of Jernigan’s deal are now option years, with Jernigan scheduled to make $11M in 2019, $12M in 2020 and $12M in 2021, as was the case under the previous terms, however none of that money is now guaranteed.
With Jernigan expected to miss time, it’s good that the Eagles signed veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata earlier this offseason. He’s a capable starter, at least. The Eagles also have defensive ends such as Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett who can line up as interior defensive linemen.
As for the depth behind Ngata and Fletcher Cox, there aren’t a lot of proven players. Destiny Vaeao wasn’t anything to write home about as the No. 4 defensive tackle last year. 2017 sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls, an undersized player for his position, has a chance to step up. Aziz Shittu and Winston Craig are fighting for roster spots. The former is a dark horse to keep an eye on. It’s also worth noting the Eagles reportedly signed Bruce Hector as an undrafted free agent. He received $60,000 guaranteed from Philly, the most of any Eagles UDFA signing.
Hopefully Jernigan’s injury won’t end up being as serious as the Eagles may fear it’ll be. He’s only 25 years old and has a nice career ahead of him if he can stay healthy.
For now, this news is definitely concerning. Jernigan didn’t make a big impact down the stretch last season but he was an important contributor earlier on in 2017. Plus the Eagles’ depth will be tested even more now that his old backup, Beau Allen, is gone after signing with the Buccaneers in free agency.