McMullen: Jenkins Decision Among Eagles Toughest
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Back in January Eagles general manager Howie Roseman admitted he sometimes gets too attached to his players.
Perhaps that Band-Aid was officially pulled off Tuesday when Philadelphia moved on from the heart and soul of its team, three-time Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins.
From a procedural standpoint, the Eagles confirmed that they will not exercise their 2020 contract option for Jenkins, making him an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of the 2020 League Year on Wednesday.
The context was added in a statement, however, where it was clear the organization was saying goodbye to one of its greatest ever free-agent pickups.
"Malcolm Jenkins has been an outstanding player for us and we are proud of everything he accomplished both on and off the field during his time in Philadelphia," the team said. "Malcolm was a great teammate and leader, as well as one of the toughest and most reliable players to ever play in our city. After thorough discussion with Malcolm and his agent, Ben Dogra, both sides agreed on the difficult decision to turn the page on what was an incredible six-year relationship. We wish Malcolm and his family all the best as he pursues his next opportunity."
It was hardly a secret that Jenkins was unhappy with his current deal, feeling he outperformed it at every turn. That unhappiness was first revealed last spring when the veteran missed voluntary work, a clear signal from a proud player who typically doesn't miss snaps never mind practices.
When mandatory work came, however, Jenkins proved to be the gold soldier that the Eagles expected and was his typically productive self in what turned out to be his final year with the franchise.
After the wild-card round playoff loss to Seattle, though, Jenkins was clear that the Eagles had run out of rope from his perspective.
"I won't be back on the same deal. That won't happen," Jenkins said bluntly.
An NFL source told 973espn.com that Philadelphia wanted Jenkins back and tried to find a middle ground but it never materialized.
Ironically, one of the things that made Jenkins so valuable, his durability, cost him in the end. He didn't miss a defensive snap all of last season and also helped out on special teams.
In his six years in Philadelphia, Jenkins never dipped under 91 percent of the defensive work and for five of the six seasons, he was above 99 percent with the numbers being 99.6, 99.8, 99.9, 91.9 and 100 percent over the past two seasons -- an astonishing 2,073 out of 2,073 reps.
At age 32, though, that's a lot of tread off the tires and the Eagles weren't looking in the rear-view mirror, they were looking at the road ahead. Sentiment gave way to cold, calculated evaluation.
It was the classic NFL cliche of it's better to give up on a player a year early than a year late.
In the short term, it's hard to imagine that the Eagles' decision-making at the safety position works. In addition to saying goodbye to Jenkins Tuesday Philadelphia brought back Rodney McLeod to play center field on a two-year deal $12 million deal and also got Jalen Mills to return as a "hybrid" player on a one-year contract for $5M. Perhaps another name will be added along the way via free agency or the draft.
Either way, many have compared this to the 2009 offseason when the Eagles let Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins walk and ironically never really replaced him until Jenkins arrived in 2014.
This time it's about finding three Pro Bowls in six years with a Super Bowl championship while also leading in the locker room and the community.
Good luck with that.
- John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com and SI.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen