For two years, ever since Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson became eligible for a contract extension, the tone from the Baltimore Ravens brass was always the same: They want Jackson to be the franchise quarterback, and they plan to sign him to an extension.
And yet, here they are: Jackson has demanded a trade, even as the Ravens still vow they want to sign him to a long-term extension. That is, until they cut off all Lamar talk on Wednesday when head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta refused to answer any questions about him during their press conference.
It’s all about the draft, they said, as did a public relations staffer admonishing reporters for daring to ask about the acrimony the franchise QB apparently holds.
in regards to my future plans. As of March 2nd I requested a trade from the Ravens organization for which the Ravens has not been interested in meeting my value, any and everyone that’s has met me or been around me know I love the game of football and my dream is to help a team
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) March 27, 2023
Tense moment in the Ravens’ pre-draft press conference when a question mentioned Lamar Jackson, as it appears the media was sternly reminded not to mention the quarterback by the team pic.twitter.com/BznJOfs98k
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) April 5, 2023
Well, it just so happens that the Eagles have a quarterback that they want to make the franchise quarterback for years to come in Jalen Hurts, with a contract potentially worth a few hundred million dollars to go along with it. And much like the Ravens, the Eagles have publicly expressed their desire to mint Hurts well before he’s eligible for free agency after this season.
So, it’s worth wondering if the Eagles can be in the same position a year from now that the Ravens are currently in with Jackson.
Everything the Eagles have done so far has shown how much they love Hurts − and that goes beyond saying it like the Ravens have, while then placing the franchise tag on Jackson last month. The tag is a one-year deal worth $32.4 million, well below Jackson’s perceived value in the $45 million-$50 million per year range.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have backed up their words. They drafted wide receiver DeVonta Smith in the first round in 2021, before Hurts’ first full season as a starter. Then last spring, the Eagles traded for Hurts’ best friend in wide receiver A.J. Brown, who set a franchise record for receiving yards with 1,496 last season. Smith, meanwhile, had 1,196 yards receiving.
That continued during this offseason, whether it was center Jason Kelce deciding to put off retirement, or the Eagles promoting quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator to replace Shane Steichen, who became the Indianapolis Colts head coach. Johnson has known Hurts since Hurts was 4 years old.
It even includes the Eagles signing Marcus Mariota to be the backup quarterback. Mariota, after all, plays a similar style to Hurts as a dual running and passing threat.
And Mariota was once considered a franchise QB as former Eagles coach Chip Kelly tried frantically to trade up from No. 20 to No. 2 in the 2015 draft to take him. The Tennessee Titans, who held that pick, declined and drafted Mariota instead.
“I think it’s easy eight years, nine years later to play the what-if game,” Mariota said Wednesday.
It didn’t work out that way. He lost his starting job in 2019, then spent two seasons as Derek Carr’s backup with the Raiders before serving as a placeholder starter with the Falcons last season. Mariota was benched after 13 games, then he had season-ending knee surgery (he said his knee is fine now).
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to hopefully help a younger guy out,” Mariota said. “I’m at a point in my career where I’ve experienced everything. I’ve been the guy. I’ve been a scout-team guy. I’ve been released. … I feel like I can help Jalen. And if we can make Jalen a better player, this team’s going to be better.”
So yes, everything this offseason is about Hurts. And for the Eagles, that would include the contract extension. The Eagles want to do it now because it would allow them to start spreading out Hurts’ signing bonus on this year’s salary cap even though the actual extension won’t begin until 2024.
That means Hurts will count $4.8 million against the cap this season, plus the estimated $10 million-$15 million for the bonus. It just so happens that the Eagles have right around $20 million in available cap space, according to overthecap.com, although some of that has to be reserved for draft picks.
So the Eagles are planning for the inevitability.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said as much last week at the NFL owners’ meetings, as did Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie.
“The thing with Jalen I’m so optimistic about is, he’s just got − and I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here − but seeing him virtually every day, he has an incredible passion for being phenomenal,” Lurie told reporters last week in Arizona.
“You see that in the great ones. … You define them with their attention to detail, with work ethic. We always knew Jalen was talented, had a very live arm that we thought was discounted in college because he was such a great runner. And his character was always considered great. … I think the future is so great for him. He’s 24 years old. Honestly, I don’t know if I ever met somebody that mature at 24.”
Certainly, the Ravens were saying the same sweet nothings about Jackson after he was named the MVP in 2019.
But the Ravens’ actions never mirrored that. Baltimore doesn’t have the offensive line or the wide receivers to compare with the Eagles, and the Ravens aren’t considered Super Bowl contenders like the Eagles or the other teams with top QBs in Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Buffalo’s Josh Allen.
Still, all of the Eagles’ unrequited love for Hurts can go unfulfilled if Hurts doesn’t reciprocate by signing off on such a contract.
Hurts, for example, could wait out Jackson’s impasse with the Ravens to see what Jackson gets either in Baltimore or elsewhere. And certainly, other QBs drafted in 2020 such as the Bengals’ Joe Burrow and the Chargers’ Justin Herbert could sign market-setting deals first, thus enhancing Hurts’ value.
But at least the Eagles are doing everything possible. Mariota, who once was supposed to be the Eagles’ franchise quarterback back when he was the apple of Chip Kelly’s eye, certainly knows that.
“Hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity, but for now, I’m excited just to be a great teammate,” he said. “I’m excited to learn from Jalen. I’m excited to learn from this staff. I think together, we can go and accomplish great things, and that’s what my main focus is.”
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Why Jalen Hurts, Eagles won’t face same mess as Ravens, Lamar Jackson