The Eagles made a point last year to let everyone know Malcolm Jenkins was their undisputed leader.
One year later, he was given a one-way ticket out of Philadelphia. The team announced they were not exercising their 2020 contract option on their starting safety. Jenkins will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent and look to find a new home. The Eagles will incur a dead cap hit of $6 million but they won’t have to give the 32-year-old the pay bump he was looking for.
Jenkins had previously said he wouldn’t play under his current contract as he sought to become one of the higher-paid players at his position. He didn’t want to be the highest. Jenkins was earning $8.75 million per year, on average — and the top safety in the league (Eddie Jackson) was at $14.6 million. Obviously, the franchise felt it was in its best interest to move on from Jenkins after six seasons.
“Malcolm Jenkins has been an outstanding player for us and we are proud of everything he accomplished both on and off the field during his time in Philadelphia,” the team said in a statement. “Malcolm was a great teammate and leader, as well as one of the toughest and most reliable players to ever play in our city. After a thorough discussion with Malcolm and his agent, Ben Dogra, both sides agreed on the difficult decision to turn the page on what was an incredible six-year relationship. We wish Malcolm and his family all the best as he pursues his next opportunity.”
History Repeating? Let’s Hope Not
The last time the Eagles parted ways with a fan-favorite safety, things didn’t work out very well. That man was Brian Dawkins, the same player who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Dawkins seemed to be losing a step in 2008 and the Eagles made a business decision to let him walk in free agency.
How did that move work out? Well, Philadelphia spent the next six years trying to find Dawkins’ replacement. He finally came, in the form of Malcolm Jenkins when the Eagles signed him to a $16.25 million contract in 2014, then re-upped that commitment with a $35 million extension in 2016.
In six seasons in Philadelphia, Jenkins was the captain of the secondary and the heart and soul of the entire defense. He recorded 515 total tackles, 11 interceptions (four returned for touchdowns), 12 forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hits for the Eagles. Jenkins was also a solid contributor on special teams where routinely and unselfishly threw his body around, including last year on an epic field-goal block. His steadying presence will certainly be lost on a team devoid of leadership.
Jalen Mills Assuming Jenkins’ Role at Safety
The Eagles’ plan to replace Malcolm Jenkins at free safety might center around Jalen Mills. The cornerback was reportedly signed to a one-year deal worth $5 million, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, and they expect to use him as a hybrid safety and corner. It’s an interesting move for a defense intent on “retooling” rather than rebuilding.
Mills, an injury-prone player since coming into the league in 2016, has experience playing safety going back to his college days. He started 12 games at safety — and one at cornerback — during his junior year and started 46 games over four seasons at LSU. He bounced around playing three different positions, including safety, nickel backer and cornerback. The Eagles are counting on his versatility to supplant Jenkins’ experience.
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