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Thoughts on Tim Jernigan's contract extension | Early Birds

Zach Berman, STAFF WRITER

Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017, 8:42 AM

Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan.

Good morning, Eagles fans. This is a Friday edition of Early Birds to close out the Eagles’ bye week, but the week was not as quiet as you might have expected. That’s because the Eagles signed defensive tackle Tim Jernigan to a four-year, $48-million extension.

The Eagles want to prioritize building along the lines, so that’s where they’ll make their biggest investments other than quarterback. Jernigan has impressed the Eagles since they acquired him in the spring, and he’s a scheme fit with the athleticism and personality that the Eagles want. At 25, he’s in the prime of his career, too. He fits next to Fletcher Cox. His sack total isn’t high (1.5), but he has five quarterback hurries and has been a key part of the Eagles’ rush defense with eight tackles for losses. Look for him to continue to get better — he’s an ascending player with a lot of talent. The contract is in line with what a player of his age and skill level would make at the position. The big-picture question I’d have is that the Eagles have now allocated significant money to two interior linemen, although it’s a very talented duo. It helps that Derek Barnett is on a cost-controlled rookie contract at defensive end, and he projects as a starter during this contract. Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are both on second contracts, although both players will be 30 next season. One upside of this contract is that the Eagles now have their two starting defensive tackles entrenched going into the offseason, so the position does not need to be a priority. It’s important that the Eagles take advantage of their cap space during these next two years, because their resource allocation could look different once Carson Wentz signs a second contract. He’s eligible for a contract extension after next season and is under his original four-year deal through 2019. In 2020, he could play on a fifth-year option, but the Eagles would likely want a new deal by then. Until a new deal kicks in, he’s a bargain while on his rookie contract. This offers a chance for the Eagles to capitalize, as explained in depth in this story I wrote before the season.

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— Zach Berman

Zach, Curry and Graham seem to be playing the run at a much higher level this year. Do facts bear that out?

The Eagles have the No. 1 run defense, so that’s a fact that helps support your opinion of how Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are playing against the run. Based on the eye test, I absolutely agree with you. They’ve been a consistent presence against the run. It’s especially noteworthy to point out Curry, who is not known for his run defense. He’s really impressed this year. If you want more numbers, you can look at tackles for loss. Graham has eight this season and Curry has seven. So they’re clearly making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Pro Football Focus grades each player, and though the merit of the grades can be debated, they have Graham and Curry among the top 10 edge defenders against the run this season. So put all of these together, and I’d agree with you that Curry and Graham are playing at a high level against the run.

Zach Berman, STAFF WRITER

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