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Jalen Hurts contract emphasizes importance of timing with QB draft picks

Why Rams shouldn’t draft a quarterback this year

NFL: SEP 20 Rams at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So much for a “rookie contract quarterback discount” when it comes to Jalen Hurts. The Philadelphia Eagles signed their star 24-year-old quarterback to a five-year, $255 million contract on Monday, just 34 starts into his career. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport recently said that one rumor he heard at the combine last year was that he was certain that either the Commanders or Eagles would trade for Russell Wilson.

This week, Rapoport reports that Hurts is getting the $255 million contract “that he so, so richly deserves”.

Hurts started at quarterback for 15 games last season, as Philadelphia won 14 of those games, and he ranked 14th in the NFL with 22 touchdown passes while playing behind one of the league’s best offensive lines and throwing to A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. But were it just for his passing stats, Jalen Hurts wouldn’t be so publicized, and he has also rushed for over 750 yards in each of the last two years, scoring 23 touchdowns on the ground in his last 30 games.

In last season’s playoffs, Hurts threw for 579 yards and three touchdowns in three games, but rushed for 143 yards and five touchdowns.

Two things can be true at the same time: Jalen Hurts is a good quarterback who will make $51 million per season when his next contract kicks in. And the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the best teams in the NFL absent Jalen Hurts.

It’s a reminder to the L.A. Rams front office: Now is NOT the time to draft a quarterback.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Clemson v Tennessee Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Could Rams draft a QB at pick 36?

I won’t say that it is lucky that the Rams don’t hold the sixth overall pick this year, but at least they won’t be tempted to draft Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. This would be the wrong time to do so.

L.A. can hardly hope to protect Matthew Stafford with their current offensive line, and their competition to be the second and third receiver is a battle between Allen Robinson (who they’re openly trying to trade), Ben Skowronek, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, and Lance McCutcheon. Tyler Higbee drops too many passes, Bryce Hopkins can’t get on the field, and the recently-acquired Hunter Long could end up at TE1 before too long.

This is all setting aside that whether the Rams will or won’t have the worst defense in the NFL, they go into the draft with the least-experienced and least-proven defense in the NFL outside of Aaron Donald...and it’s not even close.

If the L.A. Rams draft a day two quarterback like the Eagles did with Jalen Hurts in 2020, it’s not just that they will be throwing him into the mosh pit alone. It’s that even if he does have some success, he will be asking to get paid before the team is probably good again.

The Rams need to build a roster before they draft a quarterback

You need the car before you get the driver. Maybe that wasn’t true two or three decades ago, when a team could just say, “Screw it, get Troy Aikman now” or “Get John Elway now” and then they’ll win Super Bowls eventually. But with the cost of a quarterback rising as he proves himself (and sometimes when he doesn’t), you’re not going to see situations exactly like that anymore.

And you can forget about there being a “Steve Young behind Joe Montana” ever again.

Quarterbacks hold more agency than they have in the past and they want two things above all else: Money and starts. You need starts if you’re going to get money...and if you’re Lamar Jackson, you need money before you’re going to start.

The Ravens drafted Lamar with the 32nd overall pick in 2018 and then found out they had a gem when he won MVP in 2019. However, even with a “QB rookie contract discount”, Baltimore hasn’t had much return on investment with those savings, winning a wild card game over the Titans in 2020 (then losing 17-3 to the Bills), missing the playoffs in 2021, and losing a wild card game in 2022 that Lamar was not available to play in.

But Lamar says he won’t play again without a new contract. Which is all well and fine. However, without knowing exactly what Lamar Jackson’s bottom line demand has been, we can’t say how unfair the Ravens are being. Maybe Baltimore wants to go back to taking their chances with a rookie quarterback contract, but they’re being held hostage by the notion that “you can’t lose an MVP to free agency without getting anything in return except for a comp pick.”

What hasn’t worked out for the Ravens? The timing.

Up next, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow are expected to be extended for contracts that exceed Hurts’ deal on Monday. Burrow has gone to a Super Bowl and an AFC Championship in the last two seasons. Herbert made the playoffs for the last time last season and the Chargers blew a 27-7 halftime lead against the Jaguars, with rookie contract QB Trevor Lawrence.

Notice: The Ravens, Chargers, Eagles had pretty good rosters when they added their quarterbacks. Philadelphia was still expecting a long career from Carson Wentz when they picked Hurts. Baltimore wasn’t sure if Joe Flacco might still have some juice left when they picked Jackson.

In the case of Burrow and Lawrence, they went to bad teams but they were also number one overall picks. The Rams don’t pick until 36th.

What the Rams need to do

What they can’t do is waste any day two draft capital on a quarterback in the hopes that they’ve landed the next Jalen Hurts. He’s an exception to the rule.

What the Rams need to do is take those swings on offensive linemen, skill players, and defensive prospects in the hopes that one or two of them prove to be foundational pieces, which is decidedly not what Les Snead has gotten out of most of his day two picks in the last five years. There is a chance that L.A. will then get their opportunity at a “Burrow” or “Lawrence” in 2024 and then if it so happens that the Rams have rebuilt the roster in short order back into a contender by 2025...they will at least have two or three years of a window to work with before that quarterback—whether it’s Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or other—is saying...

“Hey, where’s my $350 million?”

It’s all about the timing.