The Deshaun Watson contract could have become the new standard for quarterbacks. Now, teams can point to Jalen Hurts‘ deal as the new starting point.
Hurts got a lot of money from the Philadelphia Eagles. His deal was for $255 million over five years. But as NFL fans should know by now, what matters is the guaranteed money. Hurts got $179.3 million guaranteed. Again, that’s a fortune, but it wasn’t the fully guaranteed deal Watson got.
Every player can prioritize whatever he wants when it comes to contract negotiations, and for Hurts, it was giving the Eagles flexibility to keep building a winner.
“You look at all the great teams with great players, it takes a village,” Hurts said, via Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports. “We got something special going on.
“We all wanna do it for a long time. It was important to take that approach.”
Jalen Hurts explains his deal
What responsibility to other players do stars like Hurts have, when it comes to contracts? Fans love when players take a “discount.” Team owners probably love it even more. But it does make it more difficult for players in future negotiations.
Watson’s contract was unusual. Watson got $230 million from the Cleveland Browns, fully guaranteed. That was part of a unique situation in which multiple teams were trying to trade for Watson and got in a bidding war. NFL owners didn’t like that guaranteed deal. Lamar Jackson’s inability to get one offer from another team while he is on the franchise tag seems to be a clear indication that owners were not repeating the Watson contract and making that the norm.
For players like Hurts, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert, they seemingly had the leverage to ask for fully guaranteed deals. Hurts was coming off a season in which he finished second in the NFL MVP voting, helped the Eagles to a Super Bowl and was fantastic in that loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He could have held firm and asked for a deal that was even better than Watson got. He has had more NFL success and none of the off-field baggage Watson has.
Instead, a little more than 70% of Hurts’ massive deal is guaranteed. That’s great, and $179.3 million guaranteed is phenomenal. Nobody is arguing otherwise.
But teams will point to Hurts’ deal if quarterbacks in future negotiations want all their money guaranteed.
“Money is nice. Championships are better,” Hurts said, in words that will make owners happy.
Should QBs take less?
For years, Tom Brady took less than market value with the New England Patriots, and it’s a reason the Patriots had a lot of success during Brady’s prime years. Brady likely doesn’t have any regrets about that. Patrick Mahomes has a deal from the Kansas City Chiefs that is huge but also generally accepted as team friendly. The Chiefs just won a Super Bowl.
Other quarterbacks have tried to maximize their earning potential, understanding their leverage and the revenue the NFL is bringing in. They have reasons, beyond just the money, to take a hard line in negotiations with owners who are seeing unprecedented growth in their franchises. Quarterbacks who have taken less, or less guaranteed, to allow teams salary-cap flexibility to keep signing free agents have their reasons as well.
The problem comes when players who choose to get the most they can from owners are unfairly compared to those quarterbacks who choose to take less. If a quarterback like Burrow or Herbert chooses to ask for a fully guaranteed deal that hasn’t been seen in the NFL before, you’ll find plenty of fans and maybe even some media members say they’re being greedy. They’re not.
Hurts isn’t wrong to take less. Players like Kirk Cousins, who has leveraged his way to a series of nearly fully guaranteed deals, aren’t wrong either. But the owners had to be pretty happy that Hurts didn’t hold the Eagles’ feet to the fire after his spectacular season. It makes it easier to dismiss the Watson deal as an outlier.
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