It took some time but the record setting $255 million contract between the Eagles and QB Jalen Hurts is now official and I will do the best to go over the ins and outs of the contract regarding the salary cap hits and the dead money that is associated with the contract. Hopefully I will get a chance to also do a video breaking the numbers down as I think it may be easier to follow along with the dead money schedule in that format but I will do my best to explain it here.
The Contract Structure and Cap Hits
The primary concept behind the contract is to have incredibly low salary cap charges on the front end of the contract by using a triple option bonus structure, which has become a contract mechanism of choice for the Eagles and Browns over the last season. While it may sound complex all it really means is that the Eagles have the option to basically restructure the contract each year and are more or less pre-opting into the restructure. Here is the year by year breakdown:
Hurts’ 2023 salary is the minimum and he received a $24.294 million signing bonus to bring his cash total for the year up to $24.304 million, a raise of $20 million from his rookie contract. His salary cap charge will be $6.15 million.
Hurts’ 2024 salary is also for the minimum and is fully guaranteed as is an option bonus worth $38.875 million for a total salary of $40 million. The option bonus will be prorated at $7.775 million per year from 2024 through 2028. If Hurts’ is on the roster in 2024 he will have about 40% of his 2026 salary fully guaranteed. His salary cap charge this year will be $13.559 million.
In 2025, Hurts again has the minimum salary and an option worth $40.83 million. The total salary paid that year is $42 million. The salary is already guaranteed. His option will be prorated at $8.166 million per year and will run from 2025 through 2029. 2029 is the first void year of the contract. Hurts’ cap charge will be just $21.769 million in 2025. IF on the roster the remainder of his 2026 salary is guaranteed.
Hurts’ 2026 salary will again be for the minimum and this time there is an option bonus worth $49.785 million for a total salary of $51 million. He has $3.696 million fully guaranteed at signing, but this will all be fully guaranteed by 2025. The option will be prorated at $9.957 million per year from 2026 to 2030, which is the second void year in the contract.
In 2027, Hurts will have $51 million in salary paid out again mainly as an option bonus. The Eagles have a few options as to the option value, but the primary breakdown will be a $1.345 million salary and a $49.655 million option bonus. This option is prorated over five years at $9.957 million to lead to a cap charge of $41.83 million. $22 million of this salary is guaranteed in 2026.
2028 is nearly identical to 2027 except the option is worth $49.6 million with a 1.4 million base. The cap charge here is $47.15 million. Nothing this year is guaranteed.
In 2029 the Eagles will have $97.553 million in dead money to deal with if they were to get that far.
The dead money on Hurts’ OTC page is not really going to reflect the way the contract actually works because this is what I call a “dynamic” contract. Like the contract’s of Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, etc… there are early guarantees that kick in and increase the dead money once earned and they probably have about a 95% chance of being earned through 2026.
The Dead Money
Here is the breakdown of the dead money on a regular release:
|Pre 2026 Trigger
|Post 2026 Trigger
|Pre 2026 Trigger
|Post 2026 Trigger
|Pre 2027 Trigger
|Post 2027 Trigger
|Pre 2027 Option
|Post 2027 Option
What you can see with the dead money is that Hurts is incredibly well protected by the structure of the deal. It takes until 2028 for the dead money to drop below $100 million. Hurts has a no trade clause so the Eagles do not have the Carson Wentz emergency red button to push in this case unless things get so bad for Hurts he just wants out. If things really did go that bad this would probably be more of a Jared Goff situation where you are giving a team a 1st round pick to take the contract and maybe having to give Hurts a few extra dollars to take the trade.
The first real out year for the Eagles I assume would be 2027 at which point he would be a June 1 cut. On a June that year I believe the cap would be $47.9M taken in 2027 and $54 million deferred to 2028. If they pay out the 2027 option the June 1 in 2028 would be $35.8 million and $57.8 million in 2029. My assumption is the Eagles have a contingency to split the 2029 dead money.
Why the Deal is Good for the Eagles
The big thing with the contract is that it is not a monumental leap forward for the QB market. While it is a strong deal for Hurts, it shows what I would consider more incremental growth for the QB market, moving from Russell Wilson’s $49 million a year (Ill discount Aaron Rodgers in the QB market as an outlier) to $51 million a year, about a 4% increase. That’s around average and not in the ballpark of the massive market movers who have typically moved the market by around 10% or more.
The Eagles did not have to give a massive raise this year which would have been difficult with their salary cap. The $20 million is well under the major contracts which have seen raises during the “old” contract years over $30 million. So this is more in between the top deals and the wacky Pat Mahomes contract.
Through one year Hurts will earn $60 million in new money which is $15 million below Dak Prescott, $13 million below Wilson, $12.6 million below Kyler Murray, $8.5 million below Josh Allen, and $6 million below Stafford.
Through two new years Hurts will be at $102 million. That is $8 million less than Wilson and about $3 million under Murray. He will be above the others mentioned above.
It will take until year 3 for Hurts to take his position as the top market earner at $153 million, $3 million more than Wilson. Again this is often a trait that you see with contracts that are not real market movers even as they technically set the market in terms of APY. A deal that skews more in favor of the player will have him be the top earner, but quite a bit at each stage of his contract.
Why the Deal is Good for Hurts
Protection, protection, protection. Hurts received $110 million guaranteed at signing, $153 million virtually guaranteed at signing and $179 million guaranteed for injury. While some are going to point out that the initial guarantee is lower than Wilson the fact is that is not comparing apples to apples. Players like Wilson and Murray had millions of dollars virtually guaranteed or actually guaranteed on their prior contract. Hurts had $4.3 million.
$175 million in new injury guarantees are about $50 million more than the market and the full guarantee is only second to Deshaun Watson who received the greatest guarantee in the history of the NFL. Hurts injury guarantee covers 68.6% of his new contract value. Few late picks have gotten big deals of this size but as a point of comparison Derek Carr in 2017 was at 55.2%. This matches Wilson’s 2015 guarantee and Wilson had a Super Bowl win under his belt at the time.
While the cap structure is all about the way the Eagles do business the fact is it gives Hurts protection every step of the way. It is more or less $100 million in dead money on the front end of the contract which makes it hard to ever move on, even with a post June 1 designation until 2027. Hurts has the no trade clause so he controls anywhere he goes if they ever get into trade discussions.
The structure makes this more of a three or four year contract rather than a five year one. The Eagles are going to be best off with their salary cap if they extend Hurts again, so if he does play well he should be in a good position to earn over $51 million per year rather than being locked in at that salary through 2028. My assumption would be that even if they made it to a franchise tag conditions the cost would be outrageous based on the cap hit associated with the void.
This should be a solid deal for the market as it will set a standard for QBs, even those with a limited history, to reach the top of the market while being extended after three years in the NFL. This should set the stage for the next crop of QBs to reach up to $55 million per year but in the case of higher drafted QB’s I would expect the structure to be far more money up front in those deals than we see here so in that respect this doesn’t change much since the Prescott and Wilson high points remain.
While the $51 million number is big, my guess is the Eagles feel this was under whatever market would have existed if they waited longer. As mentioned above the QB market is headed to $55 million. Even if those QBs get there in a more bullish manner, the price for Hurts would only increase if the Eagles waited and the market changed in the interim. This is what happened with the Cardinals and Murray and the Broncos and Wilson last year with the market moving before they could get deals done.
The Eagles probably consider that even within the NFC this gives them a chance to get in under market in a year or two. This should set up Dak Prescott to cost the Cowboys much more than Hurts will cost Philadelphia. If their QB’s take off, the Eagles will be paying less than the Bears and Packers. So what looks big today may not be so big tomorrow even in the NFC.
Still I am a little surprised the Eagles did the deal that they did here. The guarantee structure is well slanted toward Hurts and the Eagles do not have much in the way of outs here if Hurts ends up not being the QB he was last season. NFL teams are spending more and more in dead money on QB’s that quickly fall out of favor and by no means does this contract have the upside of the Mahomes and Allen contracts while still carrying some of the same financial risks as it pertains to guarantees.
I am not sure that there is a team more aggressive than Philadelphia at locking up their own talent without too much hassle and that there was little negative that could possibly occur this year to change the overall decision matrix on Hurts which probably made this an easy call to finalize now rather than in the summer. With the way QB contracts have gone you are pretty much screwed no matter what if the player drops off significantly. In this case this is arguably the most aggressive contract structure pertaining to the cap structure in over 20 years.
The contract is structured in a way where basically there are two roads for them in 2027. If Hurts fails they will have wiggle room to drop his salary down to the mid $20M range that year. If he succeeds they can extend the contract and continue to push the cap charges into the future. My fear is that there is little gray area for him being a “good but not great QB” where you wind up in the situation that the Vikings are in with Kirk Cousins every year where the contract structure basically puts him in charge of almost every decision that is made.