The First Read: Five major takeaways from Jalen Hurts’ mega-extension

By Jeffri Chadiha, Columnist

If there’s one thing we knew about Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts after last season, it was that he didn’t have any more questions to answer. He earned All-Pro honors, made a serious case to be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and nearly beat Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LVII. All those people who doubted his ability when he arrived in the NFL three years ago suddenly looked foolish. The dude could play, and the scary thing was that he was seemingly just getting started.

The Eagles rewarded that combination of production and potential on Monday, when Hurts agreed to a five-year, $255 million extension with $179.3 million in total guarantees. His $110 million guaranteed at signing is third behind only Deshaun Watson ($230 million) and Russell Wilson ($124 million), per NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, but the average annual salary of $51 million makes Hurts the highest-paid player in league history. Hurts definitely has come a long way in short time. His deal also will have predictable ramifications that come with it.

That’s the way it goes once quarterbacks start earning stupid money. A lot of different people feel the impact, whether that’s within the franchise or outside of it. So, this special edition of The First Read focuses on five major takeaways from the contract the Eagles just bestowed on Hurts.

Photo: Jessica Rapfogel USA TODAY Sports

1) The negotiations between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens just got harder. There’s been plenty of attention paid to the contract talks between Baltimore and its star quarterback over the past two years. The ease with which the Eagles settled on a deal with Hurts makes that situation all the more confounding. There’s no question Jackson should try to get every penny he can get from the Ravens. He also should take note of how much easier life can be when you grab a great deal sitting in front of you.

Hurts became the highest paid player in NFL history simply by realizing he has an ideal situation. He’s surrounded by a lot of talent, and he’s working for an organization that has done a lot to make him comfortable as he’s grown into a star quarterback. That sounds very much like the circumstances surrounding Jackson in Baltimore, and the Ravens clearly would like to continue supporting him with good players while paying him market value. Hurts may not have a MVP award — he finished second to Patrick Mahomes last season — but he also has taken his team to a Super Bowl, which is something Jackson hasn’t done. You can bet that will come up in conversation whenever these two parties talk money next.

Photo: Parker Waters

2) Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow should be thrilled. Both Herbert and Burrow are eligible to receive their own extensions, and it once was widely expected that they would cash in before Hurts, who took his game to another level this past season. It’s not a leap to see either or both players winding up with at least $200 million in guaranteed money given how the market is evolving. The question — which is the same one that faced every other young star quarterback in recent years — is how much these players will value individual wealth over roster-building. Mahomes faced that issue after winning the Super Bowl and chose to do a team-friendly deal. He then won his second championship last season. Both Herbert and Burrow have two more years left on their rookie contracts, which would include the fifth-year option, to claim a championship. What they do with their own extension negotiations will play a huge role in how their teams fare later this decade.

AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo.

3) Howie Roseman’s gamble paid off. Nobody could’ve known what the Eagles had in Hurts when Roseman, the team’s general manager, selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft. Philadelphia was still hoping Carson Wentz could alter the decline that ultimately saw him go from being an MVP candidate in 2017 to being an asset Roseman traded to Indianapolis after the 2020 season. Hurts was an intriguing talent that needed plenty of grooming. Look at him now. The Eagles rebuilt the offense around him in his first season as a starter, in 2021, and he used that run-heavy system to lead the team to a wild-card spot. A year later, Hurts worked himself into a complete quarterback, one who could beat teams with his arm and legs. Last season started with a lot of questions about whether he could be a legitimate franchise quarterback. It ended with the Eagles suffering a 38-35 loss to Kansas City in Super Bowl LVII and Hurts outplaying Mahomes in that contest. The Eagles will have some tougher challenges to face with Hurts moving into a higher income bracket in the coming years. What they won’t have to worry about is whether he’s worth the money.

4) One more win for dual-threat quarterbacks everywhere. Hurts didn’t officially end all the criticisms on dual-threat quarterbacks this past season — there’s always been a belief that only signal-callers who dominate from the pocket are reliable enough to win championships — but he came darn close. He lost the MVP and the Super Bowl to Mahomes. He proved that a running quarterback could grow into a dangerous passer. He provided more hope that quarterbacks who play like him will receive more opportunities moving forward. Think about it — Lamar Jackson felt like a unicorn when he exploded upon the NFL in 2019. The only other players we’d seen like him in recent memory are Michael Vick and Cam Newton. Now you’ve got Jackson, Hurts, Kyler MurrayJustin Fields and in this year’s draft class, Florida’s Anthony Richardson. The game is changing. Players like Hurts reaping these kinds of rewards are further evidence that more NFL franchises believe in their skill sets.

5) The Eagles are officially on the clock. This part was inevitable. The Eagles had the best roster in football last season, and it nearly landed them a championship. They still have a good amount of talent, but they won’t be able to be as aggressive in their roster-building moving forward, not with Hurts making this kind of cash. Roseman will have to make tougher choices about what side of the ball gets the majority of money and equally as deft when it comes to the draft. It’s easy to forget this now but Roseman did select wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft. Reagor now plays in Minnesota, where he shares the same locker room as the man taken one pick after him, All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson. You can make those mistakes when your quarterback is cheap (and the Eagles eventually found their way to A.J. Brown). Such errors will kill you when your signal-caller is making elite money. So, we’ll see if the Eagles can get another crack at a championship in the early years of Hurts’ mega-deal. The odds aren’t in their favor, but they also just locked up a budding superstar.

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