On the day of the NFL Draft, the Eagles have announced a roster move that changes everything. The team have signed defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to a one-year deal.
For months, mock drafts have pushed the idea of a day-one defensive tackle to the Eagles and with good reason. Signing Malik Jackson was important, but the team lacked a lot of depth. With Jernigan returning to the team on his second ‘prove-it’ deal in three years, this changes the entire landscape.
Jernigan ended his first year in Philly with 29 tackles but burst out of the gate early. Through nine games, he had 10 QB hurries, 5 QB hits and 1.5 sacks. An ankle injury looked to slow his progress, but it didn’t stop him from being one of the team’s biggest defensive standouts. As Jernigan wreaked havoc inside, the rest of the defensive line, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox included, feasted. It was that stellar play that led the Eagles to sign him to a huge $48M contract. All of a sudden, the Eagles had one of the most ferocious DT pairings in the NFL and they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Disaster then struck. Jernigan suffered a herniated disk that forced him to miss the majority of the 2018 season and even upon his return, it was clear that this was going to be problematic moving forward.
He only appeared in 3 games, tallying 2 tackles and one TFL. It was clear that Jernigan wasn’t quite at 100% just yet. Fletcher Cox somehow carved a career-year without his running-mate to aid his production, but now after being released due to such an overwhelming cap-hit surrounding a player with so many question marks, he’s back.
It’s an interesting situation. Malik Jackson can play a 5-tech role as well which may even negate the need for a defensive end, with a combination of Cox, Jackson, Graham and Jernigan all taking the field. It’s worth noting that the Eagles are paying Jackson $30M over three years, so he’s expected to have a huge role and I doubt Jernigan would strip him of that.
Jernigan will either return to his old starting role, pushing Jackson to the right, or instead simply remove the depth need entirely, giving the Eagles a golden run-stuffing presence once more.
When healthy, Jernigan was a force to be reckoned with and was a huge cog in the Eagles elite run defense of 2017. Having him back not only enables the Eagles to move their draft priorities outside of the trenches, but adds a level of instant production a rookie may not be able to provide.