June 11, 2019
When Malcolm Jenkins didn't show up for the optional Eagles OTAs last month, it likely didn't catch the organization off guard. Nor did the reports about Jenkins desire for a reworked contract that would place him in line with some of the other top safeties in the NFL, which is where he belongs.
That's because Jenkins, who spoke to the media for the first time on Tuesday, said there's been an ongoing dialogue between his representatives and the organization since shortly after the season ended, when he first approached the team about his contract. And while those conversations continue, and no deal has been reached just yet, Jenkins reported to mandatory minicamp this week and says he's ready to get back to work.
"I think those conversations are still going," Jenkins told reporters following practice. "But at the end of the day, my focus is on making sure that when I am here, everybody, including my teammates and myself, are giving it everything they've got. ... There were conversations around the contract, but for me, those conversations are ongoing. Obviously I'm here because I want to be here. I was looking forward to getting back on the field. So I'm excited."
Most importantly, Jenkins said he doesn't plan on skipping training camp while he waits for a new deal.
"This off-season program is voluntary, and he never once said he was holding out, I don't believe," head coach Doug Pederson said when asked if he was surprised Jenkins reported to minicamp. "No different than Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, Alshon [Jeffery]. These guys are veteran players and they understand what it takes to get ready. They've played a long time and they're Pro Bowl-type players.
"I'm not worried about Malcolm or any of the other guys I mentioned coming in ready to go."
Where Jenkins differs from those other players that Pederson named, however, is that he's currently seeking a bigger payday.
And Jenkins is right in his belief that he's worth more than the $15.6 million the Eagles will be paying him over the final two seasons of his current contract. Here's what we wrote a few weeks back when we first noticed Jenkins' absence from OTAs, which, again, are optional.
Jenkins, 31, is one of the best and most versatile players at his position and has two years left on his deal. But as more and more safeties sign lucrative free agency deals each offseason, Jenkins has seen the value of his current contract decrease dramatically. Heading into the 2019 season, Jenkins ranks ninth in among NFL safeties in average annual salary ($8.75 million) and total guaranteed money ($21 million), according to OverTheCap.com. The total value of his contract ($35 million) also ranks ninth in the league at his position, but it's nowhere close to Landon Collins' $84 million deal with the Giants that makes him the highest-paid safety in the game.
A perennial Pro Bowler, Jenkins has been the leader of the Eagles defense for several years now, including during their Super Bowl run — not to mention his work in the community or with the Players' Coalition — and would be justified if he felt like he was worth slightly more to the Eagles than his contract currently suggests.
When Jenkins originally signed his deal, it seemed like fair market value for his position, but as time has gone on, and Jenkins has continued to play at an extremely high level, the value of his contract has shrunk. The 31-year-old safety, preparing to enter his 11th NFL season, doesn't see that diminished value as a reflection of his skills, but rather as "a reflection of the contract that I signed three years ago."
"I feel like I've out-played that contract," Jenkins added.
Admittedly not trying to become the highest-paid safety in the game, Jenkins just wants a deal commensurate with his talents.
"I think like any other business, you look at what the market value is, and based off your production, what your value is," Jenkins said. "For me, I'm not out to be — when you're under contract, you can't be the highest-paid out there, nor do I want to be. But you want to be in a ballpark of what your value is. But I can't control that. As we continue to play, that value might go up. I know I've been playing at a high level for a long consistent time, and I plan to continue doing that."
I feel respected, which is the biggest part... I love being an Eagle. I love being here. I love this team and this locker room. And I want to be a part of it — that's why I'm here.
Other players in Jenkins' position might not be as willing to come back to work without a new deal, but Jenkins cited his relationship with the organization, specifically owner Jeffrey Lurie, as part of the reason he felt comfortable returning to practice while negotiations continue.
"We've talked," Jenkins said of Lurie. "And I think that's one of the reasons I feel comfortable even being here, because of my relationship with Jeff Lurie and my understanding that I do feel valued and respected. And that's not always the case for players in this league. And I understand what that means."
Just a day earlier, when news broke that Jenkins had reported for minicamp, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin was asked about the importance of having his starting safety back in the building.
"Do I really need to answer that?" Undlin quipped. "I think it goes without saying."
And because of that relationship — and that mutual respect between player and team — Jenkins didn't hide his desire to remain an Eagle regardless of how this summer plays out.
"For me, I think they understand the value that I bring. I feel respected, which is the biggest part. As a player, you want to make sure that you're valued and that you feel respected, but there is a business side of it and some other things involved in there.
"At the end of the day, I think everybody wants to win. I love being an Eagle. I love being here. I love this team and this locker room. And I want to be a part of it — that's why I'm here."
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports