The Eagles made huge waves last night, penning defensive tackle Tim Jernigan to a four-year contract extension. The future of the Eagles pass-rush is absolutely terrifying but the potential that this team has is even more so. How will Jernigan’s extension impact the Eagles moving forward? To start with, it helps a developing culture to flourish.
“Prove-it” deals have been the talk of the Eagles all offseason long. With a continued effort to build through the draft, the Birds have been battling an unstable cap situation for the last few season’s. After drafting the future of the franchise in Carson Wentz, the Eagles decided to go all out in building an army to push their bid for contention forward a few years. Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery are among some of the names who were signed with one objective. An incentive based contract that will bring the best out of veteran players in a competitive environment, helping the next generation develop as they play for their long-term futures. Jernigan was one of those names.
Originally a second-round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, Jernigan was acquired by the Eagles in a trade prior to the 2017 Draft in exchange for a third round pick. The idea? To replace Bennie Logan with a run-stopper with an incredibly high ceiling who can play his way to a new deal.
Jernigan came from Florida State University where he lined up in a 4-3 scheme as a defensive tackle, which saw him lining up in the 3-technique. That means Jernigan was primarily lined up over the outside shoulder of an offensive guard. With the Ravens, Jernigan played 3-4 defensive end where he lined up as the 5-technique. That means Jernigan was primarily lined up over an offensive tackle.
As a successful interior rusher in college, Jernigan made an under the radar tough transition dealing with much more physical tackles in the NFL than weaker interior linemen he faced in college. Given those facts, Jernigan got better every season in the pro’s, especially 2016. Jernigan started only 11 games for the Ravens in his first two seasons, but came back in 2016 and started 15. He finished this past season with five sacks (eight combined in 2010-2014 off the bench).
This year, his first in Philadelphia, has arguably been his best yet. Jernigan is tied for the team lead with 8 tackles for a loss this season, while also contributing 1.5 sacks and 5 hurries. For his career, Jernigan has played in 52 games and amassed 14.5 sacks and 24 TFLs.
“Since the day he entered the building, Tim has been a difference maker both on the field and around the building.” The Eagles said via press release.”He’s a tough, physical and relentless player who brings energy and enthusiasm every day. Tim possesses a lot of the qualities that we look for as we continue to build this team and we are excited about his future here in Philadelphia.”
So, what happens next? Jernigan and Cox will be a fixture along the trenches for the remainder of Pederson and Wentz’s initial five-year window, but the team are now faced with a startling offseason in which the prove-it contracts of the aforementioned will all expire. Fifteen players are currently in their final contracted year with the Eagles and with limited cap space at their disposal, the move to resign Jernigan sends a clear message.
If a player on a prove-it contract can shine and dominate at their position, the Eagles have no problem backloading contracts in order to create sustainability for their franchise. While Jay Ajayi may displace LeGarrette Blount, there are plenty of question marks remaining. The bottom line however is simple.
If a player fits what the Eagles are trying to do and is prepared to come in and work their tail off to achieve the expected results, then that hard work will be rewarded. This move goes way beyond just signing a dominant lineman in order to prevent a free agent market from opening, it’s one that sets the tone for the fifteen players trying to earn a new contract. That statement? Prove it.
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports