The Eagles have a ton of free agents on hold until Jalen Hurts’ contract extension gets done

In terms of the Eagles’ 20 unrestricted free-agents-to-be, business is off until after the season.

A survey of the majority of those players or their agents over the last month revealed that few attempts, if any, have been made to extend existing contracts ahead of the offseason.

The likely No. 1 reason: Jalen Hurts.

The quarterback is eligible to receive a new deal after this, his third season, and the expected massive payday — somewhere in the $50 million-a-year range — will impact every major salary-cap decision the Eagles make over the next several years or more.

The team can actually initiate negotiations with Hurts as of Jan. 9, the day after the regular season ends. Technically, there can be a contract agreed upon during the postseason, even if Hurts can’t sign it until the Eagles are eliminated.

Both sides, however, may want to avoid the distraction until football is over. General manager Howie Roseman certainly has a plan in place, and would prefer to be the first out of the gate ahead of extensions for quarterbacks Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa. But the structure of a potential deal will also have a trickle-down effect.

There are, of course, myriad other reasons why the Eagles may not retain Miles Sanders, CJ Gardner-Johnson, and their other free agents who can hit the market when the new league year begins on March 15. The rest of the season could have a bearing on their market value.

Roseman has, in relatively quick fashion, rebounded from cap purgatory after eating dead money from the Carson Wentz trade and other bad deals. But Hurts’ franchise contract will be a monolith and make it difficult to bring back players coming off good seasons, even homegrown ones.

Here’s a closer look at each of the free agents, sorted by tiers from the least to the most likely to return:

A quick look around the rest of the NFL and there could be as many as a dozen quarterback jobs open after this season. Gardner Minshew doesn’t want to be a backup. That may eventually be his reality, but it’s hard to believe there won’t be suitors who will, at least, give him an opportunity to compete for a starting spot.

He put up strong numbers in 20 starts for the Jaguars in his first two seasons and won here last December when forced to step in for the injured Hurts. The 26-year-old Minshew has been on the field only for mop-up duty this season, but if the Eagles clinch the No. 1 seed next week, he could get two starts as a showcase.

“I think a high tide raises all ships,” Minshew said when asked about the Eagles’ success increasing his value. “I think when you win, it elevates everybody. So, I think, just being a part of something so special here is a great thing for me, and I just want to continue to learn as much as I can from it.”

Jordan Mailata’s underdog rise from football neophyte to starting left tackle has softened the Andre Dillard first-round misfire. The 2019 top draft has acquitted himself whenever pressed into duty, but the Eagles understandably didn’t pick up his fifth-year option in the spring.

Dillard has been dangled on the market the last few years, but Roseman’s asking price was significant. The GM has long valued offensive line depth. Dillard, despite his early-career struggles, should get offers that reflect his positional value.

The 27-year-old left tackle has added guard to his resume this season, but that versatility won’t matter with teams expected to see him as a starter.

“I think that people know I’m a left tackle,” Dillard said. “I’m just doing what I got to do for the team right now.”

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Roseman has hit on nearly every addition he’s brought to the team this year, but the acquisition of Robert Quinn for a fourth-rounder before the trade deadline has been a relative bust. The defensive end did little in the five games he played for the Eagles, and now he’s on injured reserve after a knee scope until the end of the regular season.

Quinn might do something in the playoffs, but the 32-year-old was brought here mostly for the hopeful Super Bowl run.

Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh35, and Linval Joseph, 34, have made greater contributions after Roseman lured the veterans out of semiretirement. Both seem motivated to win second titles and not just to pocket one last paycheck. But the Eagles will likely need to find cheaper, younger backups for next season.

Could punter Brett Kern, who was signed this week, supplant the injured Arryn Siposs? Maybe for the playoffs, but the 36-year old wasn’t on a roster all season for a reason.

Miles Sanders is healthy and having the best season of his four-year career. He’s already over 1,000 yards rushing and has 11 touchdowns. He’s patiently hitting the hole, running harder, and making fewer mistakes. He’s going to get paid, which will likely price the Eagles out.

Running backs have been devalued across the league, but Roseman has been more reluctant than others to offer second or third contacts beyond one year. LeSean McCoy was the last homegrown running back he extended with a multiyear deal.

Sanders, 25, would be the first to say Hurts and the Eagles O-line have given him additional running room. He has more rushing yards before contact than any other running back in the NFL. That isn’t a knock on Sanders, but likely a statistic that will have Roseman looking for more cost-effective options at the position.

CJ Gardner-Johnson has missed the last two games, but his six interceptions still have him tied for the NFL lead. Roseman, knowing the Saints weren’t going to honor Gardner-Johnson’s desire for a new contract, traded for the slot cornerback before the season and moved him to safety.

Gardner-Johnson had some early hiccups, and he’s still not completely polished in the post, but he’s compensated with athleticism and instincts. He’s only 23 and has made his contract intentions clear. The Eagles are unlikely to match the bidding at a non-priority position.

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Starting linebackers TJ Edwards and Kyzir White are in contract years. The Eagles can’t keep both, and with Nakobe Dean waiting in the wings, probably aren’t that concerned. The 26-year-old Edwards, in his first full season as the starting middle linebacker, has been excellent.

The former undrafted rookie won’t receive the national recognition he deserves, but NFL evaluators should know his worth, and the Eagles have been reluctant to dip into their wallets for linebackers. White inked a one-year deal last offseason and has helped upgrade the unit.

Dean played in the middle at Georgia, so he theoretically could step into Edwards’ cleats. But the Eagles, based on past practices, will probably make more of an attempt to keep a player they nurtured than a free agent — price dependent, of course.

James Bradberry didn’t get to test free agency like he would have wanted to last offseason. The New York Giants held onto the cornerback past the draft before releasing him in early May. For that reason, he is likely to want to see how much he can fetch on the open market, especially considering how he’s played in 2022.

“First, I would look at all the teams that are in the running,” Bradberry said when asked about how he would approach free agency. “Of course, that’s when you look at the numbers, you look at the roster, you look at the city, the area. There are a lot of variables that factor into that decision.”

That could be bad news for the Eagles if they hope to pair the 29-year-old Bradberry alongside Darius Slay for next season or beyond.

Javon Hargrave admitted that his next contract was on his mind during the spring, but that he’s settled into the rhythm of the season and hasn’t recently looked into the future. The defensive tackle is in the last year of the $39 million deal he signed in March 2020.

Hargrave has been the Eagles’ best all-around interior lineman the last two seasons and has 15½ sacks over that 29-game span. He somewhat slipped under the free-agent radar three years ago, so it’s possible there will be more interest, even if he turns 30 in February.

He doesn’t receive near the accolades of his fellow O-linemen, but right guard Isaac Seumalo has been almost as reliable as any of them. He hasn’t missed a beat since coming back from a season-ending foot injury. The Eagles have replacements waiting in the wings, but the 29-year-old may not be too expensive, and Roseman values ​​the trenches.

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If Jason Kelce wants to play another year, how could the Eagles say no? They may have drafted Cam Jurgens in the second round expecting the end to be near, but Kelce is still competing at an All-Pro level.

The gut feeling here is that the 35-year-old will retire after the season, even if it doesn’t end with another ring. But if Kelce wants to roll it back, Jurgens could slide to guard, which would make Seumalo expendable.

Fletcher Cox isn’t quite in the same category in terms of being able to call his own shot. He almost left after the Eagles released him last offseason. But he appears to want to end his career with the team that drafted him and may be willing to take yet another pay cut as a role player. Cox has been regressing for years, but when he turns it on, he can still be disruptive.

In terms of construction, the Eagles need bottom-roster players who they can trust but don’t cost a lot. For various reasons, the following are unlikely to get competitive offers that would draw them away from the comfort of their current team.

Maybe the Eagles let them walk, but each has accepted their role on the team from starter (safety Marcus Epps), to backup (receiver Zach Pascal and running back Boston Scott), to reserve (guard Sua Opeta) to long snapper (Rick Lovato).


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