PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In business, deadlines spur action and the Eagles are staring down the barrel of a difficult decision when it comes to defensive team leader Malcolm Jenkins.

The veteran safety, who is the most versatile defender in Jim Schwartz's back seven and arguably the defensive coordinator's most important player, is on record saying he will not play under the terms of his current deal which has Jenkins, 32, set to make $7.6 million in 2020 under a team option.

"I won't be back on the same deal. That won't happen," Jenkins bluntly stated after the divisional-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks back in January.

Typically the kind of cost-effective contract Jenkins has would be a no-brainer for any front office even at his advancing age because of the prior production but playing hardball and assuming the threat is an empty one is probably not a prudent path forward for Philadelphia because Jenkins first signaled his unhappiness last offseason when he stayed away from voluntary work.

In the end, the Eagles correctly assessed the three-time Pro Bowl selection would return when mandatory work kicked off and would remain a professional both on and off the field.
That will not happen again so March 18, the start of the new league year, is decision time for the Eagles. They can pick up the option with the understanding they will tweak the deal to make Jenkins' happy or work out a restructured deal before the deadline to keep everything copacetic. Philadelphia could also pick up the option with the idea of trading Jenkins or decline the option and allow him to hit the open market to presumably find out his fair market value which most likely would send him out of Philadelphia.

Complicating matters even further is the Eagles' lack of depth at the safety position. Jenkins' running mate, Rodney McLeod, is set to become a free agent and the current backups, Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford, have very little experience.

The top free agents on the market are Justin Simmons and Anthony Harris but the Broncos already placed the franchise tag on Simmons, limiting his options, and while Harris may hit the market because of Minnesota's salary-cap issues, he's expected to get a deal with an AAV of $14M or more, which could be cost-prohibitive.

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen