Malcolm Jenkins is headed back to New Orleans.
One day after the Eagles declined the 2020 option on Jenkins’ contract, the safety signed a four-year, $32 million deal ($16.5 million fully guaranteed) with the Saints, according to an NFL source.
The Eagles had Jenkins under contract for one more season with with a base salary of $7.6 million. He wanted an extension, but the team was only willing to tweak his original deal, a source said. In other words, they weren’t serious enough about bringing him back.
Jenkins’ deal could be worth as much as $35 million if he were to hit playing time and wins incentives. The first part should be no problem. He missed only two snaps to injury during his six seasons with the Eagles. And the second part is likely within his reach, with the Saints a perennial playoff team.
The contract comes with a $9 million signing bonus.
Jenkins began his NFL career with the Saints in 2009, when they drafted him in the first round out of Ohio State. He made the switch from cornerback to safety and spent his first five seasons in New Orleans. But they let him leave in free agency -- to Philadelphia -- a decision that coach Sean Payton had repeatedly said he regretted.
“I hate that he got out of here,” Payton said in 2018. "That is probably as big of a mistake as we have made here in 13 years."
Jenkins and Payton have remained close, but the safety never let go of the grudge from the Saints letting him walk away in the 2014 offseason.
“That decision was made," Jenkins said a year ago. “Some things you can’t get back.”
But New Orleans has brought Jenkins back. Payton actually tried to trade for the 32-year-old safety during the 2017 offseason. The deal would have involved a swap for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. But Eagles general manager Howie Roseman eventually balked at the terms.
It’s a good thing he did. Jenkins had arguably his best season in 2017 and was instrumental in the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl. A leader on and off the field, Jenkins led the defense in tackling in five of his six seasons in Philly and was often the go-to guy for teammates, coaches, and reporters.
Jenkins signed a four-year, $35 million extension during the 2016 offseason, but he wanted a restructured deal last year. He sat out spring workouts but ultimately showed for mandatory minicamp, and he never missed a day until the end of the season.
But Jenkins made it clear after the Eagles lost to the Seahawks in the playoffs that he wouldn’t return under the terms of the last year of his contract. The Eagles, in a statement, said they made an effort to keep Jenkins, but it obviously wasn’t enough, and they announced Tuesday that they weren’t picking up his option.
Roseman had tried to trade Jenkins to get something in return, but interested teams knew that he would likely be available as a free agent. The Saints, who are now unlikely to re-sign safety Vonn Bell, pounced.
The Eagles, meanwhile, re-signed safety Rodney McLeod to a two-year contract and cornerback Jalen Mills to a one-year deal, with the intention of looking at Mills also at safety. Whether the Eagles are prepared to go with the pair as their starting safety combo remains unknown.