The Philadelphia Eagles opened free agency Tuesday by addressing one of their biggest needs.
Just 45 minutes after the signing period officially began at 4 p.m., they landed former New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins with a three-year contract reportedly worth $16.5 million, including $8.5 million guaranteed.
In addition, the Eagles re-signed punter Donnie Jones to a three-year contract and released safety Patrick Chung after just one disappointing season.
Jenkins, 6-foot and 204 pounds, spent the past five seasons with the Saints. He was originally drafted in 2009 to play cornerback, but switched to safety the following season. While with the Saints, the 26-year-old registered 290 tackles, two sacks, 32 pass defenses, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries while serving as the Saints' defensive captain.
“We really liked Malcolm's versatility,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said in a statement. “He can line up at either safety spot, can come in and make a tackle and can play man-to-man as well. I had a chance to study him on tape leading up to the (last season's Saints-Eagles) playoff game and really liked what I saw. He’s a sharp kid and is ultra-competitive. We are really happy to have him in Philadelphia.”
The Eagles are very thin at safety. Nate Allen, Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman all became unrestricted free agents Tuesday, leaving second-year veteran Earl Wolff as the only returning safety on the roster. The Eagles may re-sign Allen to team with Jenkins in the secondary unless they believe Wolff can overcome the knee injury that hampered him most of his rookie season.
The Eagles signed Jenkins rather than pursue big-name free agents such as Buffalo's Jarius Byrd and Cleveland's T.J. Ward. Carolina's Mike Mitchell was also a possibility.
“Malcolm is someone we've had our eye on for quite a while,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in a statement. “He has been a productive player his entire football career, both in New Orleans and at Ohio State. Everything you hear about Malcolm as a person is true. He was a two-time defensive captain with the Saints and is a high character player. We are excited to add a guy like that to the culture we have established here.”
The Eagles also made a strong move by re-signing Jones, who enjoyed an outstanding season in 2013. Jones set franchise single-season records for net punting average (40.4 yards) and punts inside the 20-yard line (33). He also became just the fourth punter in league history to win NFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards in back-to-back games.
Jones, 33, set an Eagles' single-game record by averaging 50.7 net yards against the Redskins on Nov. 17 for his first honor. The following game, he placed seven punts inside the 20-yard line against the Cardinals, which also set a team record.
He was the third prospective free agent to re-sign with the Eagles, following wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
“What you love about Donnie is his consistency, and he's always working to perfect his craft,” Roseman said. “He's a great fit in our locker room, and he's another guy we wanted to make sure we brought back.”
Chung, a former starter with New England, did not make any impact with the Eagles while battling a shoulder injury for most of the year. The 26-year-old appeared in 12 games last season, collecting 56 tackles and seven passes defensed.
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