Its been officially announced everywhere by now, but PFT was the first to have the basic info that Allen Hurns signed a four year contract extension worth $40 million today. The $10 million annual per year vaue will tie him for 10th overall in the NFL in that contract metric with Randall Cobb of the Packers. Though we dont know the full breakdown of the deal I do feel safe saying that this is a huge contract for a player with just two years of experience who is regarded as the second wide receiver on the team. The Jaguars held a tremendous amount of leverage here because of the RFA tag and I think you can make a case that this may be the best deal signed by a player in that spot since Arian Foster. So here are some general thoughts on the deal and the impact of the contract.
The Jaguars Thought Process
The Jaguars would have held Hurns’ rights next year by using the restricted free agent tag on him. Most likely that would have been a second round tag which would be valued around $2.75 million. That number would have been a given for Hurns and should be included when really evaluating the contract. I have heard some say about the franchise tag the following year but I would not consider that in this case. When you factor in the RFA tag this contract now becomes a three year extension worth $37.25 million, or $12.4 million a year which is 7th in the NFL. Thats why no matter what this is a monstrous contract.
The question is why do the deal now? One is the possibility that they needed to spend under the CBA mandatory spending limits. Im not sure where they stood with that and they may have been compliant after their last spending spree but this should help regardless.
Second is the team issue. Jacksonville has spent pretty wildly in free agency the last two years signing players like Julius Thomas, Malik Jackson, Jeremy Parnell, Davon House. Chris Ivory, Jared Odrick, etc… to some very generous contracts. Because in the past the Jaguars had drafted so poorly they had money to burn and were looking to build a competitive team so it makes sense that they spent outside rather than inside the organization.
But they do have buildig blocks on the team now in Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and Hurns. Once you get that talent in place you wont want the locker room to start to question if they are being left behind on the business end. Hurns was the only eligible player of the three for an extension and this really sends the message that the Jagaurs will take care of their own guys.
The third is the age factor. While I would prefer a five year contract for someone being signed for this kind of money rather than what is really a three year extension, when Hurns plays out this contract he will be 30 years old. Generally wide recievers begin to lessen in impact by year 7 of their career which normally is 28 or 29 years old and continue to decline in impact each year after. The Jaguars basically just bought the only part of his career where he will have real value unless he turns into one of those freak stars that plays at a high level for a long time.
Consider the alternative which is Hurns plays out the current contract and hits free agency at 27 years old, which is likely the peak season of his career. If the team is good by that point what do you do? Do you re-up him at that point to a big money deal and lock yourself into a contract where you are stuck through 2020 and have dead money in 2021 for a player that is likely declining? You also have Bortles and Robinson to worry about and now you cant even stagger salary cap charges. The roster simply becomes a “big 3”. Or you let Hurns walk and perhaps miss out on his best year or at least a very good one. Basically they massage the cap charges here and allow themselves flexibility to walk away earlier.
Now that doesnt mean they could not have gotten better terms because this almost looked like they used no leverage. Im sure some discussion points included Cobb’s $10M contract as a 1A in Green Bay as well as inflating the value of Victor Cruz’ contract signed as a RFA back in 2013. His new money in that deal would inflate to just over $10M now. Again both pale in comparison to the true $12M value of this one but based on how contracts are valued the $10M makes sense to some extent with those deals. There is also the fact that the Jaguars really can’t ask with a straight face their number 2 receiver to take less than the $9.2 million paid to Thomas as a free agent the year before.
Based on a tweet by Hurns’ agent it seemed as if getting to $10M was incredibly important for Hurns (or at least a goal of Drew Rosenhaus’) so dont be stunned if there is a big ramp up in contract value in the final year of the deal. Rosenhaus signed a similar deal for TY Hilton where to get the APY they wanted they put money in late in the contract that has less odds of being earned.
The Impact on the Jaguars
As a general manager, every contract you agree to has impact on your future negotiations and this is the one area where I’d be curious to see where the Jaguars go. The current market for the highest end 2s is between $8 and $8.5 million unlss you make the case that Cobb was no different than any other 2 in the NFL, which I think some might argue. So really we are looking at a leap of anywhere from 17% to 25% over what might be considered a comparable pool of players with his stated APY and siilar over Cobb if we use his true APY of $12+M.
Robinson last season had 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has some of the more physical traits teams desire and will be just 25 when he hits free agency. It is likely the comparable group of players for Robinson will be AJ Green, Julio Jones, and Dez Bryant. They are likely setting the stage for Robinson asking for some wild money in the realm of $17-$18.5M a year to match the same kind of raise that Hurns received. Thats the way I would be looking at it if agreeing to an early deal and I dont know what argument they can counter with unless the two players end up with comparable stats this seasona and next. He may also look for short term deal and considering his age may not be as advantageous to Jacksonville.
Bortles should now have the firepower to ask for a pretty big number on par with the higest paid quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the highest overall. Bortles shows a lot of promise but would probably get lumped in with the group that is below Matt Ryan, which consists of the Tannehill, Kaepernick, Osweiler grouping. Bortles may very well be far better than those three but he should now have a path to ask for Rodgers money (or what may be Luck money by the time he can be extended).
Maybe when the details all come out the year 4 payment will be even higher than I think, but in general I think the Jaguars could have done a bit better here to keep as much leverage as possible with their better players in the future.
The Impact on the League
Given some of the contracts doled out by Jacksonville in the last two years I think they are slowly becoming an outlier franchise. An outlier franchise is one where almost every other team will simply disqualify any contract signed by that team when negotiating with another player while the players agent will try to hammer home the importance of the contracts on that team. We have some very interesting reciever negotiations coming up and each will try to argue that this contract makes sense.
Doug Baldwin will be older than Hurns when Hurns’ new money years kick in, but Baldwin is coming off a 1,000 yard year with a huge TD total. Baldwin is not considered a protypical 1 but he plays that role in Seattle and has been productive. This should make him look for a bigger contract in order to accept a new deal from Seattle this year.
Emmanuel Sanders has 2,500+ yards in the last two years and is enetring the final year of his contract. Sanders will turn 30 in 2017 which I think makes this even less of an issue for him, especially since its doubtful the Broncos are looking for a new deal, but at the least it should increase his asking price.
Michael Floyd is 27 and on his rookie option year. Is there that much of a difference between the two? If Hurn is worth a ture value of $12.4M can you argue Floyd is worth less than $10M?
Antonio Brown and Alshon Jeffery are both superstars. Brown wants a new deal and Jeffery is on the franchise tag. Both will argue that this is a data point that the market is increasing for talented players. DeAndre Hopkins is extension eligible and in a similar spot.
Then you have the next group of players set to be free agents or option eligibe in 2018 including Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Sammie Watkins, and Jarvis Landry.
All it takes is one or two other teams to concede on the contract at which point it will lose outlier status. If it pushes the market or gets players like floyd and Landry near top 10 money then it can have a big impact league wide.