Malcolm Jenkins Extension Is Most Important Move For Eagles This Offseason

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By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Malcolm Jenkins voiced his displeasure with his contract during the offseason last year and played through it. Fast forward to the 2020 offseason and Jenkins continues to voice his displeasure, taking it to the next level by vowing not to return to the Eagles this season without a new contract. Despite what Howie Roseman has stated in regards to the importance of re-tooling and getting younger, how Howie chooses to address the Malcolm Jenkins contract will set precedent for the direction of the Eagles offseason.

When you think about the Eagles defense there are only a couple names that immediately come to mind: Cox, Graham and Jenkins. Malcolm Jenkins is the true leader of this defense and is the epitome of consistency and health throughout his most recent contract. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder how this is even a point of contention: to extend or not to extend Jenkins. The move to extend Jenkins will ultimately be the most important move Howie makes this offseason and this speaks volumes considering the needs across the roster like linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver.

Safety Position:

The most important reason Jenkins need to be extended is the state of the safety position for the Eagles.

Year over year, the team has had needs at the LB and CB position that have been the Achilles heel for the team in some big moments. The safety position and the defensive line have been stalwarts for Jim Schwartz over the last couple years and in re-tooling and getting younger this offseason, there is one thing Howie should not mess with and that is consistency. Malcolm Jenkins has been an important piece despite Howie’s futile attempts to bring some depth to the position: insert Andrew Sendejo. Don’t touch something that isn’t broken.

Rodney McLeod is set to become a UFA, with rumours the Eagles will let free agency run its course, but would like him back. Leaving Jenkins, who won’t play without a new contract, Rudy Ford and Marcus Epps at the safety position for the Eagles.

The free agent class of safeties is not necessarily strong with most underwhelming in performance, similar in age to Jenkins or likely to command more money than Jenkins would want in his extension.

The draft class of safeties is pretty top heavy with the stand out, plug and play options being Xavier McKinney and Grant Delpit. What is most concerning is that there are teams in need of help at safety before pick 21 who will likely end up taking the two projected first-round safeties. Further concerning, the Eagles seem focused on addressing the WR or CB position in round one, even recently being linked to DE/LB K’Lavon Chaisson.

The state of the safety position is concerning without Jenkins stepping on the field in midnight green in September. Jenkins has undeniably been responsible for the consistency of the safety position since he joined the Eagles six years ago, with McLeod’s injury history and Howie’s complete blindness to the need to draft at the position or put anybody behind Jenkins to prepare for life after Jenkins and McLeod.

Howie cannot afford to not extend Jenkins at this point due to his limited backup plan and whatever backup plan he hopes to implement will cost him more or require more then one offseason to transpire.

Jenkins vs. The Field

Malcolm Jenkins, from a free safety total cash perspective, ranks seventh at $7.850 million, with the top three being Eddie Jackson ($13.150 million), Tyrann Mathieu ($11.4 million) and Earl Thomas ($10 million). When you consider Jenkins versus those three from a skill and statistical perspective, Jenkins is definitely underpaid and seemingly underappreciated.

When you look at the last three years below, Jenkins ranks first in solo tackles, QB hits, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. His only statistical category not being one or two is interceptions. What stands out most across the last three years for each of these safeties and their production is their age: Jenkins (30-32), Jackson (25-27), Thomas (28-30) and Mathieu (25-27).

Based on statistics, value to his team and comparables, Jenkins is deserving of a new contract and I think Howie needs to be confident that Jenkins will be realistic. When we talk about a new contract, I picture Jenkins more generally wanting more guaranteed money, not necessarily more average salary. The last of his guarantees were exercised in March of 2018. I also don’t imagine he expects this to be long term; I would assume three years with the third as a team option could work, but it is largely going to be based around guarantees.

It could be argued that Jenkins may be exiting his prime and that decline should be expected, but when you look at the state of the safety position in Philadelphia, this risk is well worth taken.

Lets also consider the demand placed on Jenkins since coming to Philadelphia. You are not just replacing a safety, you are replacing a linebacker, a cornerback, a pass rusher and a special teamer. Jenkins has played 98.6% of defensive snaps since joining the Eagles six years ago across three different positions and has yet to miss a game. He has also played 30%+ of special teams snaps in five of six seasons with the Eagles. To think that this type of production, hybrid playability and durability is replaceable with any one, even two safeties through the draft or free agency, one will likely be disappointed.

Time to Extend

There is so much to like about Jenkins and so little reason, beyond his age, to say don’t give him this extension.

Jenkins has been a workhorse for this Eagles defense and I can completely agree with Howie’s sentiments on getting younger, but a manager must also step back and look at the overall make of the defense and the state of each position. If the Eagles choose not to extend Jenkins and McLeod, who likely should command enough attention to be pried from the Eagles if they choose to play chicken with free agency, then the safety position will become more of a need and concern than cornerback or linebacker on Schwartz’s defense.

Jenkins needs to be extended and then Howie can work on drafting Jenkins’ predecessor or addressing the position further through free agency. The fix at safety won’t come in the next year or two, but it is important that Jenkins be the one to help lead it and Howie evaluate the long term at the position, not a short sighted attempt to save money.

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