Eagles' decision to bring back Jernigan and what it means heading into draft

Ed Kracz

Tim Jernigan is an Eagle once again after the team signed the defensive tackle to a one-year contract just hours before the start of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

Terms of the deal aren’t known, but Jernigan was set to make $11 million this season before the team refused to pick up his option right before the start of free agency in mid-March. By not picking up his option, the Eagles saved $7 million in salary cap space but had to eat $6 million in dead money.

Whatever this contract is worth, it is much cheaper than what they would have paid had hey not released him.

It’s rather clear that there wasn’t a market for Jernigan after a still-unexplained offseason injury last offseason kept him off the field until late November. He played just 45 snaps during the regular season and 58 more in the playoffs.

The Eagles acquired Jernigan in a trade with the Ravens two years ago, and, after paying well in his first season, was rewarded with a four-year, $48 million contract.

By bringing back Jernigan, the Eagles would appear to be set on the defensive line heading into a draft deep at defensive tackle and end. They have Fletcher Cox and free agent signing Malik Jackson as well as Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector. Cox is coming off offseason foot surgery, but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in July, if not sooner.

The Eagles could still go for a defensive tackle with their first pick in the draft, the 25th selection overall. Or even in the second round, with either their 53rd or 57th picks.

Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was the popular 25th pick of many of the Eagles beat writers, though I chose to go with Boston College offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom as the team’s first selection.

The Eagles could also look to go with an edge rusher with their first pick later Thursday night, perhaps somebody like Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell if he is still on the board. Or maybe Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary begins to slide into the late teens and the Eagles decide to trade up.

Either way, it will be an interesting evening, one that became even more intriguing with the signing of Jernigan.