Allen Hurns Is Worth His New Extension With the Jaguars
Sure, getting your name called during the NFL draft is nice, but Allen Hurns has made out okay regardless.
Going from undrafted to one of the highest paid players at a position isn't a bad path.
Late on Thursday, it was announced the receiver agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth $40 million with $20 million of it guaranteed. It was also reported escalators could bring the deal up to $11 million per year.
Hurns is just two years into his career, but he’s already set to be paid like a top-10 receiver in terms of average annual value. The four-year, $40 million deal matches what the Green Bay Packers gave to Randall Cobb last offseason, which is the 10th-highest average in the league.
Average annual value isn’t always the best way to compare contracts, but with few specifics on Hurns’ new deal, it’s what we’ve got. The $20 million guaranteed matches what Marvin Jones received from the Detroit Lions earlier this offseason on a five-year, $40 million contract. That figure ranks 12th among NFL receivers.
Whether Hurns should be considered a top-10 receiver at this point in his career isn’t the point of the contract handed out. With the salary cap continually rising and the Jaguars still having a lot of space to fill, Jacksonville basically set the top of the market for number-two receivers. But calling Hurns a number-two option really undersells just how good he was in 2015.
Best of the Breakouts
Hurns was one of the most efficient wide receivers in the league last season by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP measures the value of each play on the field based on how an average team would be expected to perform in each scenario using historical data. Last season among wide receivers with at least 100 targets, Hurns ranked third in Reception NEP per target behind Doug Baldwin and Odell Beckham. In the Jaguars' offense, Hurns was the secondary option to Allen Robinson, who finished sixth in Reception NEP per target, but his play was just as impressive.
Some of what made Hurns so valuable in 2015 was his ability to get in the end zone. Hurns had 10 touchdowns last season and had a streak of seven games in a row with a touchdown during the year. He shouldn’t be expected to keep that type of pace up, but none of the touchdowns were fluky, and he should continue to be a scoring threat when he’s on the field.
The 2015 season was a huge improvement from what the two Jacksonville receivers did as rookies in 2014. Hurns’ Reception NEP per target this past season was 0.92, while it was just 0.54 in 2014, which ranked 104th among 189 players with at least 30 targets. Robinson was even worse at 0.51, which ranked 112th.
Some would see those numbers and correlate it with the improvement of Blake Bortles in his first full year as a starter. Some of that is true -- Bortles did go from one of the worst quarterbacks by Passing NEP per drop back in 2014 to 27th in 2015 -- but the best thing Bortles did was get more passes around the general area of his top two receivers.
Bortles isn’t the most accurate passer, but he has two receivers with a wide catch radius who excel at adjusting to the ball. Robinson, with his athletic catches, would come to mind first for some, but Hurns had a better catch rate than his teammate last season (61 percent to 53 percent) and makes some of his adjustments look more routine. Hurns was often a safety blanket in the middle of the field and needed to make more difficult catches than would be expected in that area.
Here he is against Josh Norman in the opening week of the season. Norman follows him as his route breaks inside and Hurns gets off the press, and through what’s probably pass interference before stretching for the ball. (Videos courtesy NFL Game Pass.)
In this game against Tampa Bay, Hurns gets behind the cornerback on 4th-and-18, adjusts to a ball thrown a little below his waist, and continues to gain a significant chunk of yards after the catch.
Hurns is also an efficient route runner with the ability to get himself open against any coverage.
In a game against the New York Jets, he baits cornerback Antonio Cromartie to charge in on the first move and then blows by him for an easy touchdown.
This following play shows off the best of both worlds. Hurns smoothly cuts outside against Jamar Taylor, who is trying to defend the in-breaking route. He creates separation, hauls in a pass thrown slightly high, and gets his feet in bounds. Also, let the play below serve as a plea for more ISO cameras on wide receivers during game broadcasts.
Building for the Future
Lately, there’s been an optimism surrounding the Jaguars. It’s a feeling that hasn’t been associated with the franchise since its earliest years of existence. Jacksonville’s 2016 draft was one of the most lauded, thanks to the collection of top-end defensive talent. It’s a defense looking to gain the promise the offense earned this past season.
Hurns, as much as any other player, is a reason for that promise on the offensive side of the ball. The Jaguars struck quickly to lock down one of their best players. There are a few reasons for this. As an undrafted player, Hurns is eligible for an extension after two years instead of three like drafted players. Jacksonville also has money to spend. That’s not good enough reason to just throw money around, but when it’s used to get a long-term deal done at the top of market value for a key piece of the offense, it’s more reasonable.
There was really no discount done by getting a deal done as soon as possible for the Jaguars, but considering the cap space Jacksonville has and the rising cap each year, that’s not going to be an issue that bites the franchise down the line. With this contract now in place, the Jaguars have a better picture of what they can do with the future extensions of Robinson and Bortles.A lot of what’s surrounding the Jaguars now is hype, but they have a few pieces who have proven to be players any team would want to build around. Hurns is one of those guys, and Jacksonville will be glad to have him for another four years.