January 19, 2020
The Philadelphia Eagles' 2019 season is over, and there will be a lot of interesting decisions made on the players currently on the roster, more so than in most years. Let's take a position-by-position look at who will likely be back with the team in 2020, and who won't.
Previous stay or go positional analysis
Today we'll look at safety. (All money figures via OverTheCap.)
Unhappy with his contract last spring, Jenkins sent a message to the Eagles' front office by skipping voluntary OTAs. Eventually, he played nice, as he showed up to training camp, played on his under-market contract, and did not miss a single snap all season long.
After the 2019 season ended, Jenkins sent a crystal clear message to the Eagles' front office through the media -- He is not going to play for the Eagles in 2020 on his current contract.
Jenkins has a good case. In terms of average annual value, he is only the 12th highest-paid safety in the NFL, and he is only owed $7,600,000 in salary in 2020, which is not guaranteed.
Meanwhile, here are his snap count numbers since he has played in Philly:
|Malcolm Jenkins||Snap counts||Percentage|
On a team that has suffered an absurd number of injuries the last three seasons, Jenkins has been the lone constant in the Eagles' defense. His value to the team could not have been clearer in 2018, when his leadership and presence kept the Eagles' secondary from completely crumbling after it had lost Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Sidney Jones, and others.
At one point during his Eagles tenure, I believe there was a case that Jenkins was a borderline top 5 kind of safety in the NFL. While I don't think he's quite that anymore -- and oh by the way he just turned 32 in December -- Jenkins is still a very good starting safety, and his intangibles are sort of impossible to measure.
Jenkins' INTs are down (1 since 2018), but he still makes plays. For example, he has 8 forced fumbles (one didn't count) the last two seasons, and he became a significant threat as a blitzer down the stretch in 2019. He also had a blocked field goal against the Lions that should have led to a win, but ultimately didn't.
Of course, it is unknown what Jenkins wants. If it's anything close to the four year, $55 million contract Earl Thomas signed last March, for example, that's not going to happen. If he's looking for a bump in pay, and for some guarantees in 2020 and 2021, then that is an entirely reasonable thing for Jenkins to expect, and the team to grant.
Ultimately, it's probably best for all sides if Jenkins remains in Philadelphia, and the belief here is that something will get worked out.
In January of 2019, coming off ACL and MCL tears in 2018, McLeod restructured his deal, taking a pay cut and making 2020 a voidable season. McLeod rehabbed his knee, got himself ready in time for Week 1 of 2019, and had a solid, though unspectacular season.
McLeod will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the Eagles will have to decide how much he is worth to them.
On the one hand, while we think of guys like Jalen Mills, Nigel Bradham, and Derek Barnett as "Jim Schwartz favorites," McLeod is low-key right there with them, as Schwartz has repeatedly mentioned the calming influence McLeod has on the defense. On the other hand, there are probably better bargains available at the safety position than what it will likely cost to retain McLeod, who will turn 30 in June.
The Eagles claimed Epps during the season, after the Vikings waived him. He mostly played in three-safety sets, as the super-deep middle of the field guy.
Against the Giants, Epps was extremely lucky that Josh Sweat messed up a flea flicker, as he would have been toasted by Eli Manning and Golden Tate. He's No. 37 here:
Golden Tate would have hit his head on the goalposts if the Giants could have protected on that flea-flicker pic.twitter.com/NU5ClotpHF— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 10, 2019
In the playoff game against the Seahawks, Epps bit on a little double move by DK Metcalf, and Russell Wilson connected with him deep down the field to seal the Eagles' season.
Epps will likely be in Eagles camp this season, but he didn't show much in his opportunities in 2019.
The Eagles were excited to be able to trade Bruce Hector for Ford, thinking that they had just landed a special teams stud. As it turned out, in 10 games, Ford racked up 4 penalties for 38 yards, plus an additional 28 yards in yards nullified by his penalties. Meanwhile, he only contributed 5 special teams tackles.
Ford is still under contract for the 2020 season for very little, and he'll have a chance to make the roster in camp, I suppose, but he was awful this season.
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