The Eagles declined the option on Tim Jernigan’s contract for 2019 and the defensive tackle will become a free agent on March 13, an NFL source said.
Jernigan was slated to make $11 million in base salary with a $13 million salary-cap number. Few expected the Eagles to bring him back at that figure after he suffered a non-football injury last offseason and missed most of 2018. But rather than restructure his deal, the team cut bait and will eat $6 million in dead money while saving $7 million against the cap.
The Eagles renegotiated Jernigan’s original four-year, $48 million extension after he suffered a mysterious back injury in May. Neither the team nor Jernigan ever specified how the injury occurred, although he said in November that he had initially feared that his career would be over.
The 26-year old played in just three regular-season games in 2018 and overall was on the field for only 100 snaps, including the playoffs. Jernigan performed better in the postseason and notched a sack, four tackles and a tackle for loss in two games.
The Eagles gave up little to acquire Jernigan during the 2017 offseason. They sent a third-round pick to the Ravens for a third-round pick, which dropped them 25 spots. Jernigan played in 15 games and finished the season with 2 1/2 sacks, 34 tackles, and nine tackles for losses.
He arrived in Philadelphia with a pass-rushing reputation, but the Eagles utilized him more as a run stopper. They struggled to replace his production after his injury. They had signed veteran Haloti Ngata before the injury, but he failed to make an impact, as did a cast of lesser defensive tackles. Treyvon Hester blocked a field-goal attempt against the Bears, preserving the Eagles’ first-round playoff victory.
All-Pro Fletcher Cox is the only defensive tackle guaranteed to return next season. The Eagles could address the position via free agency or trade, but defensive tackle is considered to be deep in possibly a historic draft for the position.
The Eagles will be eligible to receive 2020 draft-pick compensation if Jernigan signs with another team.