PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In March 2014, Malcolm Jenkins was supposed to be a consolation prize for the Eagles after they failed in pursuing prized safety Jairus Byrd, who signed with the New Orleans Saints to a six-year, $56 million deal. Jenkins’ goal since he’s been with the Eagles has always been to make the team bond and learn to play for each other.
That came to fruition in 2017 when the Eagles won the Super Bowl — Jenkins’ second world championship, and more so his this time since he was a rookie on the 2009 Saints.
Jenkins has become an invaluable team leader on and off the field. He’s been someone almost anyone in the Eagles’ locker room can confide in and he’s been the Papa Bear to the Eagles’ fledgling defensive backs, who go to him for everything from how to conduct themselves off the field, to nutrition and workouts.
Now, the 31-year-old Jenkins has tacitly expressed that he would like to be paid according to his worth — and he deserves it. In February 2017, Jenkins signed a four-year, $35 million extension. He has two years left on that contract, this season, in which he’ll earn $8.1 million, and next year, which he’ll earn $7.6 million.
Entering this season, Jenkins will be the ninth-highest paid safety in the NFL for a total contract ($34 million) and 10th overall in average salary per season. He’s behind players like Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Reshad Jones, Lamarcus Joyner, Harrison Smith, Devin McCourty and Adrian Amos when it comes to average salary per season.
Losing Chris Long already leaves a gaping leadership void in the Eagles’ locker room. If the Eagles lost Jenkins, or let him sit out, it would leave a larger gap in not only the leadership of the defense but also the overall team. Other than Jason Peters, Jenkins is the sage elder statesman on the team.
The Eagles have $27 million — Jenkins’ number — in available salary-cap space. Much of that is and probably should be earmarked to lock in Carson Wentz to a long-term deal.
In the last two years for the Eagles, Jenkins has played linebacker, nickel slot, safety and cornerback. He didn’t miss a snap in 2018, playing 1,177 snaps.
With safety Rodney McLeod coming off ACL/MCL injuries, the Eagles have Andrew Sendejo and Tre Sullivan as their safeties. That could be trouble if the Eagles start the season with them.
But the Eagles, and especially team executive vice-president of football operations Howie Roseman, are too smart for that.
They know and value Jenkins. He knows the Eagles value him, too.
Now the Eagles just need to show it by paying him what he’s worth — on and off the field.