Matt Rourke) / Associated Press
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 | 11:14 a.m.
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to draft Jalen Hurts in 2020 came with as much hand-wringing as intrigue regarding how to use the talented Heisman Trophy finalist. The Eagles already had quarterback Carson Wentz locked into a $128 million contract. They certainly had more pressing needs at the time on all sides of the ball.
Three seasons later, there’s no doubt in Philly that drafting Hurts was the right call.
Hurts would win any Philly most-popular athlete poll these days — well, it is football season — and the third-year quarterback has the Eagles just one win away from only their second Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
Turns out, the Eagles were built on the strength of a QB still on his paltry rookie deal. He’s a finalist for AP NFL MVP, Offensive Player of the year and tied a franchise record with 33 total touchdowns.
At just 24, Hurts has a Super Bowl — and super riches — ahead. He’s due for a new contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $50 million a season, one that could rival the mammoth 10-year contract given to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes that has choked the team’s salary cap. The Chiefs have been creative in finding ways to remain at an elite level despite Mahomes’ salary. The Eagles will have to do the same.
General manager Howie Roseman has been masterful of late at making all the right moves in drafts, trades and smart contracts. If the Eagles are to remain contenders for the same window the Chiefs have smashed open with Mahomes, Roseman will have to be just as adept at working the salary cap and finding gems in the draft.
The future can wait until Feb. 13. On deck, the Super Bowl.
“We want to go out there and play to our standard,” Hurts said. “That doesn’t change, regardless of the magnitude of the game.”
The Eagles offseason is already off to an astounding start. Roseman swung a 2022 draft-weekend deal with New Orleans that involved all draft picks — notably, the Eagles would get the Saints’ first-round pick in 2023. Hey, the Saints were supposed to be pretty good and a pick in the 20s would have been fine. Instead, the Saints sank (though they did beat the Eagles) and Philadelphia has the No. 10 pick of the draft. Not bad for a team in the Super Bowl. The Eagles can only hope they can land a star player that could keep them championship contenders for another decade.
Odds are, though, this time they won’t stun anyone and pick a quarterback.
Did someone say steal? Roseman outmaneuvered the Titans during the 2022 draft when he engineered a deal to get wide receiver A.J. Brown.
Upset with his contract in Tennessee, the Eagles sent two draft picks to the Titans for Brown and immediately gave him a $100 million, four-year deal with $57 million guaranteed. Brown was worth the price and his playmaking ability has only brought out the best in Hurts’ playmaking. The two are close friends and their chemistry is evident on the field.
He had 155 yards receiving in his Eagles debut and kept on rolling all the way to 88 catches for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns in the regular season. He topped Mike Quick’s 1,409 yards in 1983 for the Eagles’ single-season high.
Across the field, DeVonta Smith put up similar bold numbers. Smith, a first-round pick in the 2021 draft, finished his second NFL season with 95 catches, which are the most by a wide receiver in team history.
Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson have anchored the offensive line for a decade. Miles Sanders was a second-round pick who had 1,269 yards rushing this season and 11 touchdowns. Dallas Goedert has blossomed into one of the top tight ends in the league and made the offense one of the more dynamic in the league.
Did someone say steal, Part II? Haason Reddick signed a $45 million, three-year contract, that included $30 million guaranteed. It turned in one of the greatest season performances in team history. He had 16 sacks and 3½ more in the playoffs to pace the Eagles. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are 10-plus-year veterans who helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl.
Jake Elliott, a fifth-round pick in 2017, has kept a low profile this season as Philadelphia’s fourth-down aggressiveness has kept him from putting up big field goal numbers. Elliott has at least been automatic on extra points, missing only one this season. It seems almost laughable that it’s worth noting, but Dallas kicker Brett Maher has missed five extra points in the postseason.
The Eagles this week activated the 21-day practice window for punter Arryn Siposs to return from injured reserve. Siposs had been sidelined since mid-December with an ankle injury. The Eagles have since used veteran Brett Kern. Siposs could be activated for the Super Bowl ahead of Kern.