While the Eagles focused their efforts early this offseason on extending contracts for three of their young core players, it was no surprise Monday that they agreed to terms with safety Malcolm Jenkins on a new five-year deal that will keep him under contract through 2020.
Jenkins certainly has done as much, if not more, in the last two seasons than tackle Lane Johnson, defensive end Vinny Curry and tight end Zach Ertz - the players to whom the Eagles handed out $144 million worth of contracts over the previous month.
As Jenkins said after signing a four-year extension that is worth an additional $35 million to the existing $5.5 million he was slated to make in the final year of his previous deal, his last two seasons with the Eagles have been the most proficient and healthiest of his seven-year career.
"Being here the last two seasons, I've been able to play in systems that complement my skill set really well and it's led to higher production, it's led to better seasons," Jenkins said. "But also being put in position where I've kind of been pushed to the forefront to be a leader."
The Eagles will have a new defense in the 2016 season, though. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme - at least his previous ones - vs. Bill Davis' two-gap 3-4 base system is about as different as NFL defenses get. Jenkins, who played for three coordinators in five seasons with the Saints, said he wasn't concerned.
"Since I've been in the league I've played under probably four or five D-coordinators . . . and they're all different schools of thought," Jenkins said. "I think obviously there's going to be some change and a little bit of a different role being in a different scheme, but I know for a fact Jim is one of those people that knows how to mold his defense to what his players do best."
Wherever Schwartz wants Jenkins to play, it shouldn't matter. While Johnson, Curry and Ertz did enough to warrant extensions, their eye-popping contracts were based more upon projected accomplishments. With the 28-year-old Jenkins, he outplayed the three-year, $15.5 million deal he signed two years ago.
In retrospect, it was a bargain. Jairus Byrd (six years, $54 million), Donte Whitner (four years, $28 million), T.J. Ward (four years, $22.5 million) and Antoine Bethea (four years, $21 million) received more in the 2014 offseason, and not one of those safeties has been as good and certainly not as reliable.
Jenkins was solid in his first season with the Eagles but elevated to another level last season and played in his first Pro Bowl. He went as an alternate, but he was slighted without the initial nod. He has become one of the more versatile safeties in the NFL and has clearly been the Eagles' best safety since Brian Dawkins left in 2009.
Jenkins led the Eagles in tackles in each of the last two seasons and didn't miss a game over that span. The same can't be said of Byrd, Whitner, Ward or Bethea. If there has been a knock on Jenkins it is that he dropped too many would-be picks. He still forced more turnovers (three interceptions and three forced fumbles) than any other Eagle in 2015.
If he lacks anything on the field, he more than compensates off it. Jenkins has developed into one of the Eagles' leaders. New coach Doug Pederson will rely on him as he implements his culture. Schwartz will lean on him as he introduces a new scheme.
Schwartz has understandably been evasive when asked about his system. But based upon his experience, he will install an attacking defense that has a 4-3 base front. His linemen will penetrate rather than read and react, which will place more run-gap responsibility on the linebackers and safeties.
But those changes won't be as extreme as some have suggested. Jenkins and fellow safety Walter Thurmond still had to defend a great deal against the run last season. But Thurmond played more free safety than strong safety, particularly in base personnel.
Schwartz' safeties, at least previously, were interchangeable. There has been a misconception that he used his safeties strictly in defined free and strong roles. But Thurmond would be asked to defend against the run more, and that could make it unlikely the Eagles re-sign the free agent-to-be.
Jenkins' extension could affect that as well, considering how little salary-cap space the Eagles have devoted to the position in the past.
Safeties Chris Maragos and Ed Reynolds return, but neither is a probable starter. That leaves Jenkins and a yet-to-be-named partner. Both will be charged with making the calls on the back end, but Jenkins was so good at quarterbacking the secondary that Davis allowed him to do so even when he was in the slot.
"Playing in the nickel is something that I'm very comfortable doing and I enjoy doing," Jenkins said. "But also I know what me playing the safety position means to the entire defense. I have fun playing the nickel, but you need that guy on the back end to run your defense, to get everybody lined up, patrol those airways.
"I'm trying to figure out now how to be great at both."
Jenkins was in the slot 47 percent of his snaps last season. It was perhaps why he had his best season. But he has as much experience playing over the top and in the box. He has the straight-line speed to play center field and has improved against blocks and as a tackler to aid against the run.
If he's deficient in any skill, he more than compensates with instincts and a high football I.Q.
It was intelligent to invest in intelligence.