Daily Focus: Why Allen Hurns deal is good for the Jaguars
Editor’s note: Every weekday in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Why Allen Hurns extension is a smart move by Jaguars: Just two years after signing with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent, Allen Hurns signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension, with $20 million guaranteed, on Thursday. Even with the Jaguars spending two second-round draft picks on wide receivers in 2014, Hurns led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns as an undrafted rookie. It was a solid year to build upon, even if he dropped a few too many passes that brought down his receiving grade that year.
Hurns was overshadowed for much of 2015 by teammate Allen Robinson’s breakout season, but Hurns also took a huge step forward. He cut down his dropped passes from seven to three, while also improving after the catch. His 84.9 overall player grade ranked 18th among wide receivers last season, and wasn’t far behind Robinson’s 12th-ranked 87.6 grade.
There are two reasons this could be considered an overpay: 1.) Hurns’ $10 million per year average ties him with Randall Cobb for the 10th-highest-paid wide receiver in the league right now. 2.) Hurns was still under contract for 2016, meaning he would have been a restricted free agent after the season, and is arguably the second-best receiver on the team, so it does seem a little early to invest so much in him after one very good season.
But with the Jaguars still having the most cap space in the league at nearly $50 million prior to the deal, it is difficult to fault them for locking up a player who played like a top-20 wide receiver last season. That alone makes this a smart move for Jacksonville.
Should the Jets sign Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term deal? After being forced to use the franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson this offseason, the Jets remain interested in re-signing the defensive end to a long-term contract prior to the July 15th deadline. The previous argument against re-signing Wilkerson had to do with the team having too much money already tied up in the defensive line, but that’s less of a factor after the team let nose tackle Damon Harrison walk (to the Giants) in free agency. Sheldon Richardson is the only big contract along the D-line other than Wilkerson, and last year’s No. 6 overall draft pick Leonard Williams doesn’t top $6 million per year through his initial four years of his rookie contract, with his fifth-year option not coming until the 2019 season.
The biggest issue for the Jets is overall cap space. With just over $3 million current cap space per OverTheCap.com, New York doesn’t have much to work with when trying to sign a player whose franchise tag is for $15.7 million and will want a similar or higher average in a new contract. The team is also reportedly still considering re-signing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, which will only constrict their financial situation further if a deal gets done.
If the team can work out the financials, it is clear that it would be in the Jets’ best interest to keep Wilkerson. He has been dominant as both a run defender and pass-rusher for the majority of his career, grading among the top-five 3-4 defensive ends three of the last four years. He’s been more consistent in run defense, but he’s also coming off his highest pass-rush productivity score of his career, including proving himself to be an effective edge rusher this season as well. Provided that Wilkerson returns healthy after a broken leg suffered in Week 17, it is certainly the right move by the Jets to at least explore all possible avenues to keep a player of Wilkerson’s caliber.
What moving Clay Matthews back to OLB will mean for Packers: Head coach Mike McCarthy said “so far, so good” of Matthews’ return to his original position. Matthews was moved to inside linebacker for much of last season, depending on the defensive package, and while he was an upgrade over what we’ve seen from many Packers inside linebackers during recent years, he still graded as a slightly below-average inside linebacker. In fact, his negative overall grade was the lowest of his career, and it was his first season he did not finish with an above-average pass-rushing grade. He also posted by far the worst tackling efficiency in his career, as he missed more tackles in 2015 than he did in the three previous seasons combined.
Getting Matthews back at outside linebacker full-time will allow him to use his speed and bull-rush ability off the edge to help him once again be more effective as a pass-rusher.