In a recent ranking of the worst contracts on each of the 32 NFL teams, Jason Fitzgerald of Sporting News claims the Philadelphia Eagles have overpaid for DT Timmy Jernigan. Fitzgerald has Jernigan ranked No. 16 among the most overpaid players in the league.
Jernigan’s situation is a little different than some of the others on Fitzgerald’s list — which includes players like Washington TE Jordan Reed and Baltimore QB Joe Flacco — with a back injury sidelining the DT just months after signing a new 4-year, $48 million deal, including $25.5 in guarantees.
After news of his back injury hit the wire in May, Howie Rosemann and crew were quick to return to the negotiating table, and re-work some of the guarantees. Fitzgerald argues that the contract was too high to begin with:
“The Eagles are bold with their contracts, and this is no exception. Jernigan’s deal is essentially the same contract the Cowboys worked out with Crawford, and both are building on mistakes. Philly’s looks worse since Jernigan was sidelined by a significant back injury months after he signed the deal. The injury was serious enough that the Eagles were able to tweak the guarantees, but they shouldn’t have put themselves in the situation in the first place.”
The second-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2014 is only 25 years old, and still has a lot of miles left in the NFL. His four-year contract was in-line with a lot of DT/DE deals this offseason, and working with agent Drew Rosenhaus — who has a long history of making deals with Rosemann — was able to secure a solid one as the future of the position in Philly.
In his four years since being drafted, Jernigan has missed only six total games, and averaged over 50% of defensive snaps over the past three years. The DT played the first three seasons of his career with the Ravens, before joining the Eagles in 2017 to play the last season of his rookie contract.
In his first season in Philly — aside from getting a Super Bowl ring — he nabbed 2.5 sacks and 29 total tackles.
Jernigan earned a lot more with his second NFL contract early in 2018, but was then sidelined with a back injury that ultimately required surgery for a herniated disc. The recovery timeline for the DT was estimated at 4 to 6 months. Jernigan underwent surgery in the last week of April, marking his earliest possible return uncomfortably close to the first preseason game.
The Eagles did Jernigan a favor by re-working his contract instead of voiding it altogether. It was reported earlier this summer that the DT suffered the back injury during an offseason workout in March, and the team could have released him and nullified the big-money deal he had signed.
But instead, the Eagles are holding onto what Fitzgerald is considering the 16th worst contract in the NFL.
We won’t know whether or not the “good guy” move by Howie and team will work out in the team’s favor until Jernigan gets back on the field, but until then, at least the Eagles have some veteran DE talent who can shift to the inside in the short term — queue Michael Bennett’s intro music.