Jalen Mills ‘Recreating’ Himself Like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant

Jalen Mills

Getty Jalen Mills ia an unrestricted free agent in 2020 and the Eagles need to make a decision.

When Nickell Robey-Coleman posted a photo of himself wearing a No. 31 midnight green jersey, thoughts drifted to Jalen Mills.

The Green Goblin has worn that number proudly for the Eagles since arriving in 2016. But Mills finds himself thrust into a new role in 2020, one that demands maturity and leadership in the absence of Malcolm Jenkins. The 25-year-old cornerback will transition to strong safety and switch from his usual No. 31 to No. 21.

Mills cited many reasons for the change in a conference call on Tuesday but the one that stood out was when he referenced Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Those two megastars swapped jersey numbers mid-career and he’s hoping to channel some of that same good juju.

“I think the number change is just a new beginning. One of the guys that always motivated me was a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James,” Mills told reporters. “You see Kobe went from 8 to 24, you know, LeBron went from 6 to 23. It’s just recreating myself. Recreating that Green Goblin, that monster. It’s a new position, it’s a new feel, and it’s going to be new energy.”

It’s also a pretty selfless act. Mills didn’t have to surrender his number to a newcomer like Robey-Coleman but he did. More importantly, he did it willingly and with enthusiasm. He admitted that he feels a tremendous responsibility to uphold Jenkins’ legacy as a leader in the secondary. Oh, and the legacy and tone set forth years ago by another elite Eagles safety named Brian Dawkins.

“As far as the shoes I’m going to have to fill, with the name Malcolm Jenkins, of course it’s going to be a task,” Mills said. “There’s a standard set there from Jenk to Brian Dawkins, a tone-setter at the position in the city of Philadelphia. So I know for sure there’s going to be a standard that I have to rise up to. But I’m up for it.”

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Mills Says Other Teams Interested in Signing Him

Jalen Mills signed a one-year deal worth up to $5 million (or $4 million, depending on the source you trust) to return to Philadelphia. There was one caveat by coming back: Mills had to switch positions from cornerback to safety.

He could have gone to another team — according to Mills, there were plenty of suitors — but he liked the “chemistry and DNA” of this Eagles team too much to leave. Keep in mind, the Eagles’ franchise is the only one Mills has ever known in his four years in the NFL.

“I felt this team has the chemistry and the DNA to win another Super Bowl,” Mills said. “That’s always the main goal.”

He wouldn’t divulge what other teams contacted him but there was rampant speculation that the Lions were one of them. Former Eagles secondary coach Cory Undlin is now the defensive coordinator in Detroit and he has long held Mills in high regard.

At the end of the day, the Texas native didn’t want to change addresses and switching to safety wasn’t that big of a deal. Remember, Mills spent time at safety while playing college football at LSU.

“I’ve always bet on myselF,” Mills said. “I always have and I always will.”

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