This should be pretty simple.
I understand the Eagles want to get younger. I understand they don’t want to set a precedent where players dictate when they get paid. I understand they have other positions of need where money should and will go.
But they have to figure out a way to get Malcolm Jenkins back for the 2020 season. They have to make him happy.
Jenkins, 32, is one of the Eagles’ best players, he plays multiple positions in Jim Schwartz’s defense, he never leaves the field and he’s the unquestioned leader on his side of the ball.
The Eagles just can’t afford to lose him.
It’s as simple as that.
The Eagles have until the end of the league year (Wednesday, March 18) to exercise their team option to keep Jenkins under contract for 2020, according to a league source. If the Eagles pick up the option, Jenkins is under contract for $7.6 million in 2020. But he’s already said he won’t play under that current contract – and I believe him.
If they pick up that option, the Eagles would at least buy themselves some more time to work out a new contract with the veteran safety — or trade him. If they decline the option, Jenkins will become a free agent.
It’s going to make the honor-your-contract folks mad, but Jenkins has outplayed his current deal and has become underpaid. And now it’s time for the Eagles to give him a raise, make one of their best and most consistent players happy and keep Jenkins in an Eagles uniform for the next couple years at least.
Just after the season ended, my colleague Reuben Frank looked at what it might take to make Jenkins happy. We’re not exactly talking about breaking the bank here, but it would be a more significant commitment to Jenkins. But with over $40 million in projected salary cap space, keeping Jenkins should be a high priority. Maybe they can reach something like a three-year deal for around $35-$40 million. Find a compromise and get it done.
If I’m the Eagles, there’s no way I part ways with Jenkins.
Sure, he’s 32 now and they want to get younger but if there’s one player for whom you make an exception … it’s Jenkins. This situation will get compared to those with Jason Peters and Darren Sproles but it shouldn’t. Both Peters and Sproles were older when the Eagles brought them back and both had struggled to stay on the field.
Jenkins doesn’t leave the field. Like, almost ever.
Since his arrival to Philadelphia in 2014, Jenkins has played 6,818 of 6,908 snaps (98.7%) in the regular season and playoffs. And 60 of those 90 missed snaps came in the meaningless regular season finale in 2017.
On top of that, he has also continued to play special teams, adding an additional 941 snaps over his six seasons with the Eagles.
It’s not just like Jenkins has been on the field taking up space either. He’s been productive. While playing safety, nickel corner and linebacker, Jenkins has filled up the stat sheet in his six seasons with the Eagles: 11 INTs, 4 TDs, 58 PD, 12 FF, 6 FR, 515 tackles, 32 TFLs, 5 1/2 sacks and 15 QB hits.
A three-time Pro Bowler in those six years, Jenkins will go down as one of the Eagles’ greatest free agent acquisitions ever.
And if you think Jenkins has lost a step, look what he did over the last quarter of the season to help get the Eagles into the playoffs. In that four-game winning streak, Jenkins had 21 tackles, 2 TFLs, 4 PD and 2 FFs, including the one late in the regular season finale against the Giants that helped seal the Eagles’ playoff berth.
Because Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are all set to become free agents next week, the Eagles are likely going to have a sweeping overhaul in their secondary, which would make Jenkins’ leadership even more important in 2020. There’s a reason why his younger teammates listen to him and there’s a reason it’s often Jenkins who breaks down the team after games. He’s that important to the locker room.
The entire offseason has been a strange one because of the CBA talks and votes so there hasn’t been much action around the league. And now it’s even stranger thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. So maybe it’s not too concerning that the Eagles and Jenkins’ representation didn’t meet in Indianapolis at the combine and that this hasn’t been solved yet.
But the longer it takes, the more this will become an issue. OTAs are expected to begin in May, the mandatory minicamp is in June and training camp will come in late July/early August.
The Eagles need to make sure Jenkins is there.
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