May 21, 2019
The Eagles began the OTA portion of their offseason program on Tuesday and there was one very notable absence from the NovaCare Complex — that of veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Normally, a veteran player missing OTAs for one reason or another isn't cause for alarm bells. Both Darren Sproles and Jason Peters have done it in the past, normally to rest their bodies and continue working out on their own schedule. But Jenkins, now entering his sixth year with the Birds, has never done this before — and there might be a fairly obvious reason why he's decided to start.
Jenkins deserves a raise.
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. Especially when the Eagles somehow still have north of $20 million in salary cap space.
Amid reports that Jenkins is eyeing a bigger deal, head coach Doug Pederson addressed the media prior to the team's first OTA practice and downplayed his safety's conspicuous absence.
"Obviously, as you guys know, I'm not going to get into any kind of personal conversations that we've had," Pederson said. "But it is a voluntary program and Malcolm is one of those guys, a leader of the football team, and not [I'm] not concerned with him. We're going to keep our focus on the guys who are here and get better today."
Pederson also didn't seem too concerned about making sure Jenkins stayed in shape while not practicing with the rest of the team.
"Those are all things that are private conversations with our players and with our strength and conditioning staff, but these guys are pros," Pederson added. "They understand their bodies; they understand that when they are here, that they're ready to play and ready to go. And, again, he's a guy that I don't have any concerns or worries about."
Naturally, some fans were upset over Jenkins missing practice, using the same, tired, "if he's getting paid he better show up" argument that people use when a player holds out during mandatory practices. When was the last time you went to work on a day you didn't have to and weren't getting paid? Wouldn't feeling like you were underpaid make you even less likely to show up?
Nope. Teams release players from their contracts routinely when they aren't worth their pay. Conversely, players have every right to try to get more money when they are being underpaid relative to their peers. https://t.co/3Ln9ic5YP1— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) May 21, 2019
Eagles win Super Bowl with Malcolm Jenkins playing a major role, and essentially keeps the defense from completely falling apart in 2018: "Yaaaaay Malcolm Jenkins!!!"— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) May 21, 2019
Malcolm Jenkins, now entering his 11th year in the NFL, opts not to attend voluntary OTAs in May: "Get to work!"
Of course, without Jenkins coming out and saying it, we won't really know if this is a contract holdout or not for a few more weeks. It will likely take one of two things happening between now and the start of next month's mandatory minicamp: either Jenkins returns (with or without a new deal), OR Jenkins continues to sit out and misses practices in which he's contractually obligated to participate. If it's the latter, and there's no word from either side on a reason why he's absent, then we can safely assume it's the money.
And should that be the case, Jenkins will likely beholding all the cards.
Malcolm Jenkins has a ton of leverage if he does want a new deal. Considering all he’s accomplished as an Eagle and what the #Eagles have at the safety position right now, hard to stand pat if he wants to wait for an extension.— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) May 21, 2019
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