NFL free agency: Eagles need to find a way to keep Malcolm Jenkins

NFL free agency: Eagles need to find a way to keep Malcolm Jenkins

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. 

2019: 1,098/1,098
2018: 1,180/1,180 
2017: 1,154/1,237 
2016: 1,019/1,019
2015: 1,214/1,216
2014: 1,153/1,158

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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Why new onside kick alternative would give Eagles an advantage

Why new onside kick alternative would give Eagles an advantage

NFL owners are expected to vote Thursday on an onside kick alternative that would give teams the option to go for a 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line to retain possession. 

If this passes, it’ll be good news for the Eagles. 

Because while the rule is reportedly gaining steam among many NFL teams, there’s a reason the Eagles were the team that proposed this rule change. 

It will give them an advantage for two main reasons: 

1. The Eagles have an aggressive-minded head coach willing to buck convention 

During his four years as head coach of the Eagles, Doug Pederson has gone for more 4th-down attempts than any other team. The Eagles have 99 total 4th down attempts in four years; the next closest team has 91. The Eagles have converted on 52.5% of those fourth down conversions. 

And during the four years with Pederson as head coach, the Eagles have also gone for a league-high 28 two-point conversions. Pederson and the Eagles don’t care about conventional wisdom in the NFL; in fact, the organization believes a lot of league-wide thinking is outdated. 

All this aggressiveness from Pederson is a combination of using analytics and pairing them with his gut feel depending on how his offense is performing. 

If the Eagles didn’t think the analytics would tell them to go for an onside kick alternative at times, why would they propose it? 

2. They have a quarterback with the ability to extend plays and make tough throws 

Pederson and Carson Wentz have been together now for four seasons so, first, Pederson should have a perfect understanding of the kinds of plays to use with Wentz in these situations. 

The great thing about Wentz, though, is his ability to create when a play breaks down. To pick up plays of 15-plus yards when the defense knows you need to gain 15 yards isn’t easy. But with a quarterback like Wentz, there are multiple chances on the same play. His ability to scramble and buy time will give his receivers chances to get open down the field. And Wentz then has the arm strength to get the ball to them in a hurry. 

During his career, Wentz has gained first downs on 6 of 50 passing attempts on 3rd or 4th-and-15+, but those situations are different than this hypothetical one. We admittedly don’t have a ton of data to support the idea that he’ll be great in these situations. But use the eye test. He has a skillset that should allow him to make these plays. 

• • • 

There are a few important notes and details about this rule proposal you need to know. These come from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and they will determine the way teams use this alternative if it passes. 

• Teams can use the alternative onside kick twice in regulation and it doesn’t matter if they’re leading, trailing or tied. 

• But no overtime. You can’t decide to forgo kicking off in OT, trying to keep the ball to win the game. 

• It’s an untimed down but there is a play clock of 25 seconds. 

• If the offense converts, it’s a first down and the drive keeps going. If the defense stops them, they get the ball back at the dead-ball spot. 

• If a penalty occurs during or after a score (let’s say there’s an unsportsmanlike conduct) and it was scheduled to be enforced on the kickoff, it can be enforced on this untimed down. So if there’s an unsportsmanlike penalty, the kicking team could attempt a 4th-and-15 from their own 40-yard line instead of their own 25. 

• If an offensive penalty occurs during the play, the kicking team can’t then change their mind and kick off. So if there’s an offensive holding, it could be 4th-and-25 from their own 15. 

• • •  

We’ll find out soon enough if this proposal and some of the others on the docket pass this week. But in my mind, there’s no reason to prevent this rule from passing other than desire from some teams to keep things status-quo. This rule would be fun. 

And, at least for now, the Eagles would probably be able to use it to their advantage. 

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Dak Prescott’s contract impasse with Cowboys a win-win for Eagles

Dak Prescott’s contract impasse with Cowboys a win-win for Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys are at an impasse with quarterback Dak Prescott. And no matter how things work out for the 26-year-old and two-time Pro Bowler, the Eagles should benefit.

The Eagles’ main division rival slapped the franchise tag on Prescott back in March. If he signs the tag deal, it would pay him $31.4 million for the 2020 season, and leave him free to seek out the highest bidder afterward. Prescott and the Cowboys have been in quiet negotiations since, attempting to hammer out a long-term deal ahead of the July 15 deadline, a deal that will likely make him among the highest-paid players in the game, if not the highest.

Carson Wentz’s contract extension signed with the Eagles last June was a four-year deal worth $128 million, with $66.5 million guaranteed. No matter how you feel about Prescott in relation to Wentz, Prescott will certainly be asking for north of $32 million a year. It’s just the way of the NFL. Just three months after Wentz signed his deal, Rams QB Jared Goff signed a four-year extension worth $134 million, with a whopping $110 million guaranteed.

According to multiple reports, the main sticking point between Prescott and the ‘Boys is the length of the deal. Prescott wants a four-year contract like the one signed by Wentz. The Cowboys want to lock him up for five years. If Prescott does sign a five-year contract with Dallas, you can expect the value of that fifth year to be substantial – in upwards of $42-45 million. In addition, the guaranteed money in his deal, if he agrees to five years, will certainly be north of $100 million, and could approach, if not exceed, Goff’s record guarantee.

I certainly believe the Cowboys and Prescott will work something out. Probably a four-year deal worth somewhere between $37-40 million per season and with guaranteed money right around the $110 million included in Goff’s deal.

You can see how a contract like this could limit a team from a salary cap standpoint. The Cowboys will pay WR Amari Cooper $22 million a year from 2021-2024. Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s 2021 cap hit is $13.7 million, and $16.5 million in 2022. If Prescott were to sign a contract worth, say, $38 million a season, Dallas will be committing more than one-third of its cap space to their “Triplets.”

So, there are two possible scenarios that exist for the Cowboys: A. They sign him to a long-term deal and go cheap on defense/tight end for the next few seasons, or B. They don’t sign him, he walks after the 2020 season, and Dallas has to start their franchise QB search all over again. 

Both of those scenarios should leave Eagles fans smiling for years to come.

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