Analysis

Jalen Hurts Has Earned Mega-Contract On His Own Terms

Although I wouldn’t vote for Jalen Hurts for NFL MVP, this season is pretty stunning for a guy in his third year in the league.

Hurts, a 2020 second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia who had to learn two different college systems, had a slow start in the pros. It is remarkable what he has achieved in his second year with a new offensive system, new coaches and a few new weapons.

His coaches deserve an incredible amount of credit, too. The Eagles started throwing more with Hurts at the beginning of last season, but he was a guy who was not that accurate and seemed to need more time to adjust to the NFL game and defensive schemes. So they converted to a run-first offense and rattled off some wins against a relatively weak schedule and got into the playoffs before a big loss to the Buccaneers.

Since he has been able to prove himself, and the coaches trust him, the Eagles have gone back to that scheme from early in 2021 — most likely to establish an early lead and get all the benefits that come with that, namely that 75 percent of games in the NFL are won by the team ahead at halftime —  a stat that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

But it has gotten attention in Philadelphia.

Real coaching is so rare in the NFL, most of the time catering to the talent you have is just talk. But these guys put it into action with Hurts. They went back to the scheme this season and it has given him the chance to thrive in passing the ball.

Opposing defensive coaches are afraid to play man against the Eagles because if their guys turn their back on Hurts, he will take off and run. Which means he is throwing into generally soft zones. I think Hurts has improved as a passer, but the defense fearing his running ability is forcing opponents to play these soft zones. He still is not as accurate as you would like, but it is not as much of a problem if  A.J. Brown is wide open and will easily be able to make the catch wherever the ball is thrown.

Hurts not only has the talent he is demonstrating at the most important position on offense, but he comes with natural leadership skills. He doesn’t think he needs to be around for an extended period of time before he should be leading. His leadership skills are legit and this is such a beautiful benefit as a head coach.

All of these positives lead to the subject of Hurts’ next contract.

Arizona’s Kyler Murray has $46.1 million average annual value, and I don’t care if you’re watching tape or going by statistics, there is a very strong case Hurts should be paid more than Murray.

All of the other quarterbacks who have established themselves and started by their third year have received new contracts — Murray and Josh Allen most recently. All of those quarterbacks had five years of team-controlled rights because they were first-rounders. Hurts has only four years, which gives him more leverage — in addition to how well he is playing.

There are two things I would love to do if I was representing Hurts:

1. Let Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa get their deals done first. Both are likely to beat Murray’s deal by a large amount.

2. Get Hurts as short of a deal at fair-market value as possible. I know the Eagles well — they still use contract systems from when I was there — and they will want a longer deal. But shorter deals are what we have been seeing in recent years.

With the way the cap has been going up and the fact Hurts has a degree of leverage, I would tell him he should do a three year deal — nothing longer than four under any circumstances. If the cap goes up $25 million each year, which it could, in four years you don’t want to be 28 years old and playing on a contract based on a cap of $100 million less than when you signed four years earlier.

If the cap goes up $100 million over four years, that’s almost 50 percent higher than today. If he is worth $45 million now, what’s his worth when the cap has gone up that much? He does not want to be in a position in which he can’t capture that.

After this deal, if he chooses to prioritize other things in other deals, so be it. Hurts needs to hit a home run with this deal.

Let those guys go first, stay in line, and stay short with the next deal. You will make up for it with more down the line. The most valuable thing he will have once he has done this deal is how close he is to getting his next deal at the elevated numbers.

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