How would you describe the Philadelphia Eagles? Think for a second, what five words would best describe this team right now? It’s hard to find a word that describes a group of people who didn’t quit and kept on fighting even when the odds were stacked against them. Still, though, there’s two words that would really describe this team, this organization, and even this city.
Those words form a name, and the name name is Malcolm Jenkins. Through it all, the Eagles veteran safety gave this team everything he had during his tenure with the Eagles. Playing in every single defensive snap in 2019, a stat which has almost become the norm for the veteran, Jenkins set the tone throughout and despite not being guaranteed a single dollar, was one of the team’s biggest defensive standouts. Unfortunately, Jenkins isn’t being paid like one and he’s grown tired of it.
While the players were cleaning out their lockers on Monday, Jenkins finally put Howie Roseman on the spot by saying, “I won’t be back on the same deal”, in regards to his current contract. Jenkins went on to make sure the front office understood that the ball is in their court by following that statement in saying, “I’ve reached a point where I’ve done what I can,” the safety said. “At this point, it’s up to my agent and management.”
Jenkins has every right to feel the way he does. He’s played in 103 consecutive games with 96 of them being on the Eagles. Yes, the same team that has been buried in injuries for the last three seasons. Unsurprisingly, he also led the team in tackles.
Malcolm Jenkins plays a bigger role than just Safety. He’s been used as the Nickel Corner, Linebacker, and the voice of reason for the team when they need it the most. He’s never been one to back down from criticism, no matter where it comes from. Jenkins even stood up for the offense when they were at their worse this season.
So where’s the disconnect between Jenkins and management? Could he be caught in between the team’s youth movement and their loyalty? Howie Roseman was asked about his attachment to veterans on the team in his end of season presser, and the response given was beyond intriguing.
“It’s very difficult when you have guys who have given their heart and soul to this organization, to this team, who you’ve developed personal relationships to say goodbye, and I’m not talking about those guys [specifically], I’m just talking about that decision.
At the same time, you also need veteran leadership on your football team and you need guys that have been through it. I think you saw that for us at the end of the year, there are guys that have been through the adversity and were able to overcome it and be able to take our young players and lead them and tell them kind of the expectations that they had.
So you try to balance all those things. Now, we haven’t gotten into the evaluation of any of this. We haven’t decided on our plan going forward. Those are all the things that will happen in the coming days and coming weeks.”
This change of heart could not come at a worse time for Jenkins, who has just watched Darren Sproles and Jason Peters be kept around despite clear declines in play, while he simpply twiddles his thumbs and carries an entire defense with nothing guaranteed.
Roseman also spoke of what he described as a ‘closing’ window. When he was first appointed after the extraction of Chip Kelly, Jenkins was among the first players signed to a deal that would keep him on the team long enough to build around. After re-working his deal in the interest of the team, he now sits wondering where his future lies, while the Birds re-examine the contracts they once issued.
The Eagles once made a similar mistake with hall of fame safety, Brian Dawkins, after 2008. They let Dawkins walk away and he ended up playing in Denver for another three seasons. While Jenkins isn’t Dawkins, Malcolm has been a foundational piece for the organization throughout his whole tenure with the Eagles.
He was the glue for the defense for the last three seasons when injuries continued to pile up in the secondary. There aren’t many safeties that are able to do what Jenkins does for this defense but there are seven other safeties with a higher cap hit than him. Fortunately for the Eagles, Malcolm is just looking to be paid what he is worth. He wants to win and be valued for doing so. No one in the Eagles organization can ignore that fact for much longer. But if they do, it probably won’t be the only eyebrow-raising decision made this offseason.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports