Jalen Hurts' eventual contract with the Philadelphia Eagles shaded the entire offseason approach for general manager Howie Roseman.
With a host of free agents, Roseman knew that retaining many players would be challenging, with the advantage of a quarterback playing on a rookie deal soon to expire.
"We want him here long term," Roseman said Monday of Hurts at the Annual League Meeting, via the team's official website. "He's going into the last year of his deal and that's going to be a priority for us to extend him. We have a great relationship with him. You have to navigate the offseason understanding that we're not going to lose our franchise quarterback with one year left on his deal. Whatever that means, it means that 2024 is going to look different. We're not going to have a quarterback on a rookie deal. We're going into it with our eyes open and understanding that we've got to kind of flip it. A lot of guys on our team, especially on offense, have long-term deals. It's not like we don't have a bunch of guys who aren't on long-term deals."
The Eagles lost a share of key players to free agency -- Javon Hargrave, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, Miles Sanders, Isaac Seumalo, among others -- while still being able to hang onto some critical players, i.e., James Bradberry, Darius Slay, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and on. Most free-agent additions, like Rashaad Penny, Terrell Edmunds, Justin Evans, etc., came on the less expensive end.
Hurts' contract situation sits so top-of-mind for Roseman that it came up organically without being asked directly. When questioned about how the situation with Gardner-Johnson went down, the GM cited signing Hurts "relatively soon" as a key element of the process.
"When you go back to the start of free agency, we talked to his representatives about bringing him back here and also talked to them about the fact that we have limited resources," Roseman said. "It's no secret that at some time relatively soon we want to extend our quarterback, so our whole roster-building is going to kind of turn a little bit here from a quarterback on a rookie deal towards a quarterback hopefully on a long-term deal -- not that we have anything done, but obviously our goal is to keep Jalen here for a long time. And so at some point, you run out of resources. And so we were very clear that at some point, we were going to have to go in a different direction. Those first couple days, we tried (to re-sign Gardner-Johnson), and then we pivoted."
By "relatively soon," we'll assume Roseman means this offseason rather than in a week. Big-money contracts for quarterbacks generally come down the pike in the summer, usually in July, just ahead of training camps opening. The NFL is a deadline business, and for quarterbacks like Hurts, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, all in line for massive new deals this offseason, training camp is the first actual deadline on the calendar to use as an impetus for a deal.
If, for some reason, the Eagles can't ink Hurts to a long-term deal before his contract expires, the club wields the power of two years' worth of franchise tags to ensure the QB goes nowhere -- though Roseman has traditionally eschewed using the tag due to the high cap implications of the one-year tenders and how that affects club flexibility.
Hurts was an MVP candidate during the 2022 season, throwing for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions and adding 760 yards rushing with 13 additional scores, and developing leaps and bounds in Nick Sirianni's system. He then put up one of the most incredible Super Bowl performances ever in a losing effort.
The 24-year-old will get paid soon, and his cap charge will go from $1.643 million in 2022 to something much, much higher down the road. That tax is the price of hitting big on a lottery ticket. It's a reality Roseman has constructed the team around moving forward.