One day after an article came out referring to Malcolm Jenkins as the “most underpaid player” on the Eagles roster, the veteran safety appeared on the “Rich Eisen Show” and called for extensive reform on the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. One thing he seemed adamant about was making guaranteed contracts the norm, even at the expense of collusion.
Jenkins, who has been fighting all summer to restructure his own contract, talked at length about the restrictions placed on NFL rookies and compared how the league conducts its business against how the rest of the major professional sports leagues do. Host Rich Eisen brought up the issue of NBA star Kawhi Leonard dictating his own terms in recent weeks and Jenkins hinted at NFL players needing to take the same kind of action.
“I think the one thing that we don’t necessarily understand or talk about enough is that the NBA and all these other leagues, don’t have mandatory contracts in their CBA,” Jenkins told Eisen. “It’s not mandatory, these guaranteed contracts. We, as players, where we kind of do ourselves a disservice is we’re able to collude.
“So, if I’m a free agent and I know another guy is a free agent and another guy, we can all call each other and say we’re not going to sign anything unless it’s guaranteed. The owners cannot do that. If they collude, it’s a violation of the CBA. But unfortunately, we don’t exercise that power enough. I think we need to just mandate it and start those trends.”
Jenkins has always been calculated and respectful in the way he handles his business, on and off the field. After voicing displeasure with his own contract situation, the three-time Pro Bowler still reported on time to Eagles’ mandatory minicamp and has shown no indication he will skip training camp. In his long-ranging interview with Eisen, Jenkins seemed to be advocating on behalf of the rookies more than the old heads like himself.
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“I think the biggest thing, for me, as I look at what we did last time [with the CBA] and moving forward, is just the restrictions that we have on our young playmakers in the league,” Jenkins told Eisen. “If you’re younger, we made this rookie wage scale and we thought that OK that money will get pushed into the middle class of the league and, in fact, it just made rookies cheaper.”
The 31-year-old blamed the current CBA for placing too many contractual restrictions on the league’s top young playmakers.
“It made all the money just stay at the top of the league in terms of players and it makes it really, really hard on our young talent, like your Saquon Barkleys and Odell Beckhams who come into the league and within two years they are the best at their positions but they’re restricted because their contracts are for four or five years so a team can essentially use you and keep you under your rookie deal for seven years,” Jenkins said.
The Increasing Evils of the NFL Franchise Tag
Jenkins was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft when the New Orleans Saints selected him out of Ohio State in the first round. The team could have slapped the dreaded franchise tag on him in 2014, but they decided to let him walk in free agency. It’s a move Saints head coach Sean Payton has long regretted since the safety was in the prime of his career at the time.
Jenkins signed with the Eagles and never looked back. Now he is fighting for others not to miss out on similar opportunities. He absolutely hates the idea of the franchise tag. Most rookies come into the league and sign four-year deals with their first franchise and then get extended with a fifth-year team option. After that, they get handcuffed with the franchise tag for the sixth year — maybe for the seventh year, too. They don’t hit free agency until their eighth season.
“To me, it’s about how do we get those players who our market drivers, who are the new faces of the league, to free agency faster,” Jenkins said. “It’s the ability of knowing that the average NFL career is closer to 2.6 years so essentially you are using players in their rookie deal, or keeping them in their rookie deal, in the prime of their career when they are able to make the most money. We want to be able to get guys out of that.”
Jenkins has always been candid and open with both fans and reporters, a trait he’s been applauded for in recent years. He is a well-studied student of the business of the football and these most recent comments prove that he’s trying to make that business boom for those that put their bodies on the line every single Sunday.