Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins helped to define the Super Bowl era

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Malcolm Jenkins was a Saint.

He was also an Ohio State Buckeye, a Piscataway High School Chief, and a native son of the Garden State, but to fans in the City of Brotherly Love, number 27 will forever be remembered as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

A former first-round cornerback who won a Super Bowl in New Orleans as a rookie, Jenkins transitioned to safety as a sophomore and played the position in one form or another through Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season, in what would turn out to be his final NFL game.

That’s right, if you haven’t already heard, Malcolm Jenkins has officially announced his retirement from football at the age of 34 and will ride off into the sunset after 10,157 defensive snaps, 199 games, three trips to the Pro Bowl, and two parades as a Super Bowl champion. And while his career started and ended in New Orleans, it was his time with the Philadelphia Eagles that truly defined a career worth celebrating.

Malcolm Jenkins will always have a home with the Philadelphia Eagles.

When the Philadelphia Eagles signed Malcolm Jenkins during 2014’s free agency period, some folks felt it was a mistake.

Remember, this was a free agency class headlined by Jairus Byrd, a three-time Pro Bowler and consensus top-10 safety, and T.J. Ward, himself a Pro Bowler and one of Chip Kelly’s former Ducks from his time in Oregon. Much like Howie Roseman’s decision to sign Brandon Brooks over Jeff Allen in 2016, some observers questioned the decision to sign Jenkins when Byrd was set to replace him in New Orleans, even if his initial contract came in at a much lower number – $9.3 versus $5.4 million in AAV.

Fortunately, the Eagles watched firsthand as Jenkins and his once and future teammate Darren Sproles gave Kelly’s team fits in the Wildcard round of the 2013 NFL playoffs and felt confident that both players could help the team win moving forward, so Roseman went with his gut – and the tape – and secured both players’ services moving forward – a pair of deals that would go on to define two eras of Eagles football.

Right from the gates, Jenkins proved to be a playmaker for the Eagles. Whether deployed deep, placed in the box, or sandwiched in-between as a pseudo-slot cornerback, Jenkins consistently found ways to impact the game as a member of Billy Davis’ defense and proved an unflappable ironman whether paired up with Nate Allen or Walter Thurmond.

Fast forward to 2016, and the Eagles were in the middle of a transitional period. Out was Kelly, and in his place came rookie head coach Doug Pederson, who brought along former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz to run his defense after a year spent consulting with the NFL’s officiating department. Under Schwartz, Jenkins embraced a more formal leadership role correspondent with his new four-year, $35 million contract extension and was officially partnered up with Rodney McLeod, who would be the defining partner of his career’s second act.

With Jenkins serving as a defensive leader on and off the field, the Eagles’ defense went from solid in 2016 to spectacular in 2017, and the team was able to parlay the unit’s strength all the way to the Super Bowl, where they recorded key stops versus Tom Brady on their way to the biggest win in franchise history.

Though Jenkins’ time in Philly didn’t end with the same acclaim as it probably should have, as he was quietly released in the Spring of 2020 in the hopes of turning to younger, cheaper long-term options, he was able to return to where it all began for the collegiate Buckeye, New Orleans, where he played out his two final seasons and one last playoff run before hanging up his cleats for good.

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In total, Malcolm Jenkins played 6,388 of a possible 6,470 defensive snaps as an every game starter for the Philadelphia Eagles, earned three trips to the Pro Bowl over a four-year period, and helped to define separate eras of the franchise’s storied history. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the best free agent signings of Howie Roseman’s career and will long be appreciated for his contributions not only to the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning success, but for his commitment to making his adoptive home a better place through off-field initiatives worthy of Walter Payton Man of the Year considerations.