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NFL AM: Jaguars Ink Allen Hurns To Four Year Extension

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The Jacksonville Jaguars have spent the last two offseasons complementing their core with free agent signings of both the wise and splashy variety. Now the time has come to start paying their own, and their first decision in that direction was a smart one as well.

On Thursday, Jacksonville inked wide receiver Allen Hurns to a four-year contract extension worth an estimated $40 million, including $20 million in guarantees, which could keep him in a Jags uniform through the 2020 campaign. Hurns, a Florida native, has been one of the best finds and brightest spots for the Jaguars since they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Miami in 2014.

After moving up the depth chart quickly during his first training camp that year, Hurns played in all 16 games, including eight starts and hauled in 51 passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns. But his sophomore season in the NFL in 2015 was even better, as Hurns contributed greatly to a dynamic Jacksonville passing attack with 64 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. In the process he became the youngest undrafted player ever to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving and 10 TD in a season.

He was second on the team in all three categories to Jaguars No. 1 wideout Allen Robinson last season, and has established himself as an outstanding complement to Robinson and strong second option for quarterback Blake Bortles in the passing game. That made the decision to make sure he was signed up for the long-term a no-brainer for the Jags.

“We are excited for Allen and his family and this is very well deserved,” Jacksonville General Manager Dave Caldwell said in a statement. “He is an extremely hardworking player and is so dedicated to his craft. Since the day he arrived, he’s been a consummate professional and is a great representative of the Jaguars in the community. He continues to impress our coaching staff on a daily basis and has certainly earned the respect of his teammates. Our organizational philosophy is to reward our homegrown players when the opportunity presents itself. Hurnsy is a clear example of that.”

Because he was undrafted, putting him on a shorter term contract, Hurns became one of the first of Jacksonville’s current crop of homegrown talent brought in by Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley, to receive such an extension. But plenty others, including Robinson, who is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract, should follow in the next year or two. While they’ve added to their defense through free agency and the draft in the last several months, the Jags already have a strong base established on offense. That base is built around Bortles and his talented receiving corps, and getting those top two targets locked up for the long-term had to be of the highest priority for the franchise.

Last season, Robinson and Hurns established themselves as one of the league’s elite young pass-catching duos. Between them, they totaled 144 catches, 2,431 yards receiving and 24 touchdowns. In fact only three combos in the league last season topped the Jacksonville duo: Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, The Jets’ Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Only Marshall and Decker combined for more touchdowns.

But that New York tandem is getting up there in age, and the team doesn’t currently have a starting quarterback. The same two things could be said for Denver. The Steelers have their own problems, with Bryant being suspended for the coming season. Those factors clear the way for the Jax duo of Robinson and Hurns to rise to the top in 2016. For his part, their quarterback believes they’re already there.

“I’d say they’re No. 1. They’re special, man,” Bortles said in April. “A-Rob is obviously the guy that can go downfield, can jump and can make the big play. And Hurns is Mr. Reliable, doesn’t drop a whole lot of balls, is always in the right place at the right time. And they work well together, they feed off of each other, they root for one another. So it’s pretty cool to see, to watch them grow and grow with them as an offensive unit.”

As we look ahead to 2016, it’s hard not to agree with Bortles’ assessment of his guys as the top duo in the league. Here’s a look at some of the other tandems that will could them a run for their money.

  • Pittsburgh: Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton – Brown is arguably the game’s best at the position, but Bryant’s season long suspension is a setback for the Steelers to say the least. However, by the end of 2015, Wheaton was neck-and-neck with Bryant in targets, catches and yards. Without Bryant’s looming presence, perhaps the 25-year-old takes a step forward in 2016.
  • Atlanta: Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu – If Brown isn’t the league’s best receiver, that honor belongs to Jones, who was phenomenal in 2015 despite drawing all the attention of other teams’ secondaries. The Falcons added Sanu this offseason to try to alleviate some of that attention and Atlanta could be looking at a passing renaissance with an excellent 1-2 punch back in place.
  • Green Bay: Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb – Nelson is on the mend from a knee injury suffered last summer and Cobb is coming off a disappointing 2015 season in which he failed to fill Nelson’s big shoes as the No. 1 guy. But healthy and back where they belong, with Aaron Rodgers dishing the ball their way, this duo could re-establish themselves among the game’s elite this season.
  • Houston: DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller or Braxton Miller – Hopkins has currently established himself as one of the game’s ever changing top five at the position, but the Texans failed to complement him the last two seasons. That’s why they spent so much draft capital at the position, selecting Fuller in the first round and Miller in the third. One of those two should emerge as a complement to Hopkins shooting Houston up the rankings for new quarterback Brock Osweiler.
  • New York: Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker – They may be getting up there in age, and their team’s quarterback concerns are an issue, but there is no denying that these two can produce when they’re together. Decker was ill-fitted as the Jets’ No. 1 two years ago but blossomed again behind Marshall, who was one of the league’s most productive wideouts last season. Provided someone can get them the ball, these two still have a little something left in the tank for 2016.
  • Tampa Bay: Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson – Jackson’s injury issues forced this tandem to take a significant step back in 2015 and at 33, Jackson might not have a lot left. But as Jameis Winston gets more comfortable in the Tampa offense, Evans is going to shine even brighter and he might just drag Jackson back to the top with him.
  • Denver: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders – Questions remain about who will be the quarterback in Denver charged with getting the ball to these two, but their performance with Brock Osweiler leading the Broncos for a significant period last season should put to rest any doubts about Peyton Manning having created their success. They’re too dynamic to hold down for too long, so they’ll continue to rank on this list, even if it’s not at the top.
  • Oakland: Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree – Like the Jaguars, the Raiders are on the rise, led by an offense that seems to finally have the right pieces in the right places. Cooper didn’t blow up the way many expected him to as a rookie in 2015, but he’s not far off from establishing himself among the league’s elite, and Crabtree had a throwback season that indicated he still has plenty left to give. This duo is one to watch seriously in 2016.
  • Chicago: Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White – The Bears’ passing game took a step back in 2015 with Marshall gone and Jeffery dealing with nagging injuries, but getting Jeffery back healthy and adding the dynamic Kevin White, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury, could go along way to re-establishing the Chicago passing attack as a force to be reckoned with.
  • Buffalo: Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods – Like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins has become a top wideout without a worthwhile complement, but the Bills didn’t address the position in the same way, leaving it up to Woods to take a step forward in 2016. The 2013 second round pick has been steady, but the Bills need more from him for their offense to reach its ceiling.

About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys