Tim Jernigan’s herniated disk surgery is wiping out some of the guarantees in the new contract he signed last season, and it could sideline the Eagles’ starting defensive tackle well into the 2018 slate.
That was what ESPN.com said Thursday, expanding on an earlier, more optimistic recovery time mentioned in the initial report on Jernigan’s surgery, from 94WIP’s Howard Eskin.
The ESPN report said Jernigan “is not expected to be ready for the Eagles’ regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, and he will be a candidate to open the season on the physically unable to perform list.” That last bit could be especially concerning, in that while you can come off PUP anytime during the preseason, if you start the season on it, you are ineligble for the first six weeks.
Jernigan, 25, played 48 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2017, his first year with the team after arriving in a trade with the Ravens. He played 46 percent of the playoff snaps. In November, Jernigan, who was in the final season of his rookie Ravens deal, signed a four-year, $48 million contract, with a $10 million signing bonus. The ESPN report said the contract has been reworked in the wake of the surgery, which it said resulted from an injury suffered in training in March.
The report said Jernigan will get the $3 million base he is due this season, but his $11 million 2019 guarantee is void, with the final three years of the pact converted to option years. Jernigan will still get the same money if he plays those seasons, but none of it is guaranteed.
This would seem to make 34-year-old Haloti Ngata the undisputed starter for now next to Fletcher Cox on the Eagles’ defensive line. Ngata, a free-agent signee, would have looked nice as part of a rotation, which still could happen if Jernigan heals quickly, or someone such as Destiny Vaeao or Elijah Qualls steps up. The Eagles also can give free-agent signee Michael Bennett reps inside; Bennett is at home playing defensive end or defensive tackle. But Bennett, at 32, last season did not look much like the dominant player who had helped lead Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowls, which is one reason why he was available.
The Eagles declined comment Thursday. Jernigan’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has not responded to a request for comment.