Philadelphia Eagles: Are Timmy Jernigan’s days in South Philly numbered?

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Once considered an essential cog in the Philadelphia Eagles future, could Timmy Jernigan’s time in the City of Brotherly Love be coming to an end?

What is happening between the Philadelphia Eagles and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan?

When news broke a few days ago that the soon-to-be fifth-year ex-Baltimore Raven was scheduled to undergo back surgery, many fans took the news as little more as offseason filler, but unfortunately for everyone involved, the extent of the injury, and the length of it’s recovery, appear to be a lot worse than anyone initially anticipated.

After successfully undergoing surgery to repair the herniated disk in his back at the end of April, it now appears as though Jernigan will be out of action for the next four-to-six months, and is incredibly doubtful to dress for the Eagles home opener on September sixth against the Atlanta Falcons.

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Though no one knows for sure where Jernigan hurt his back, whether it be with the team, or independently, Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office obviously view the injury as a major red flag and have made the appropriate moves to further mitigate their risks moving forward.

According to Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Eagles and Jernigan have agreed to a restructured deal that will convert the $11 million he was set to receive in 2019 from guaranteed to non-guaranteed money, and have essentially turned the final two years of his deal, 2020 and 2021, into options years. While it is entirely possible that Jernigan could play out the entirety of his four-year contract and still earn its entire $48 million value, in a league like the NFL where contract is not fully guaranteed, it’s almost unheard of for a young, talented player in his prime to give up guaranteed money less than a year after agreeing to his first big, post-rookie contract.

Could there be more to this situation than we currently know?

While he has been a beast at times when playing at full strength, and has served as a perfect linemate for All-World tackle Fletcher Cox, Jernigan has struggled with consistency issues over the first four years of his NFL career, which is a major reason why the Ravens essentially gave the uber-talented defender to Philly for free just prior to the 2017 NFL Draft.

With Cox about to enter the most expensive stretch of his six-year, $102,600,000, and Carson Wentz soon to join him in the $100 million club, especially after Matt Ryan‘s new five-year, $150 million extensions, the Eagles may feel like the $12 million a year they currently have invested in Jernigan may be better spent on other players, like saw Jalen Mills, Jordan Hicks or Nelson Agholor.

But fortunately for the Eagles, they are one of the few teams in the league who can adequately handle their starting defensive tackle missing as many as eight games without missing a beat.

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After adding Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to Jim Schwartz‘s already loaded defensive line rotation this offseason, the team could simply choose to deploy Ngata as a big bodied run stuffer on early downs, before shifting Bennett inside on obvious passing downs, allowing the team to field a quartet of their best sack artists to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and essentially replacing Jernigan’s production with a pair of proven vets.

While moving on from Jernigan after the 2018 season would leave the team with a major gap in their defensive line moving forward, as Ngata is only on a one-year deal, and the team’s young duo of Elijah Qualls and Destiny Vaeao are incredibly unproven, with four picks in the first three rounds in the 2019 NFL Draft, and a longstanding commitment to building through the trenches, it’s entirely possible that the team could find their next heir to the defensive tackle thrown next April.

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If Jernigan eventually does comes back from his herniated disk injury and proves that he’s worthy of his four-year $48 million contracts with some exceptional play on the field in 2018 this will likely go down as a minor cliff note in an otherwise wonderful career, but if he continues to struggle, the Philadelphia Eagles now have an out to retain their cap flexibility moving forward.