Eagles free agent grades: Jalen Mills, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Andrew Kulp
NBC Sports Philadelphia

It was no coincidence the Eagles announced the departure of Malcolm Jenkins and re-signing of Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod mere minutes apart. The three moves are linked. 

While each transaction still merits its own grade, you can't discuss one without mentioning the others -- so with that in mind, here's the report card for all three: 

Jalen Mills 

The Eagles like Mills' make-up, and with good reason. He's mentally tough, a hard worker and a pretty good football player, too. 

But if the thought is to have Mills replace Jenkins, that seems ambitious. 

It's not clear that's what the Eagles intend exactly -- the club is now listing Mills as a "defensive back" rather than "cornerback," his sole position the last four years. When reports of a hybrid role surfaced though, it sure sounded like Jenkins' position to me (he was released moments later). 

The obvious place to start isn't even ability, but availability. Whereas Jenkins played every snap for the Eagles defense the last two seasons, Mills missed 18 of 35 games during that span, including playoffs. He's also a more limited athlete, never mind the huge gap in expertise. 

If this move was graded strictly on the basis of replacing Jenkins, it might be an F. 

And yet there's quite a bit to like about the thought process. Mills is sharp. He knows the defense in and out. He turns 26 in April. It's a one-year contract worth up to $5 million with incentives, so he's inexpensive and there's no risk. His skill set may even lend itself to a hybrid role. 

Whatever the specific position, even situational, this is somebody the Eagles can use. That being said, expectations should be tempered. 

Grade: B- 

Malcolm Jenkins 

One must wonder ... had the Eagles given Jenkins a new deal last year, when he initially requested it, would it look like a bargain today? Before another jump in the salary cap and safeties around the league signed richer deals? 

It's an important question, because Jenkins' rumored demands in 2020 do seem a tad unreasonable. 

The Patriots just re-signed fellow safety Devin McCourty to a two-year deal averaging $11.5 million per season. Jenkins was reportedly asking for $14 million. The two players are basically the same age. Jenkins has one more Pro Bowl, McCourty one more ring. 

Are the Eagles worse today without Jenkins after choosing not to exercise his club option and attempt to negotiate a new deal? Absolutely. The guy did it all -- played practically every position on the defense, insisted on a role on special teams and was a leader of men on and off the football field. 

Jenkins literally played just about every defensive snap during his six seasons with the Eagles. 

Where does the front office draw the line though? Jenkins turns 33 in December and, while he finished 2019 strong, he has shown signs of slowing down. The locker room, defense and even the Eagles' secondary aren't exactly lacking for leadership, either. Cap space was kind of tight. 

The reality is the team is getting younger and could only afford to have Jenkins back if the price was right. It wasn't, so the Eagles moved forward. 

But had they done an extension a year ago... 

Grade: C- 

Rodney McLeod 

There's no one quite like Jenkins, but in terms of impact in the locker room, McLeod is no slouch. The eight-year veteran will pick up the slack there. 

On the field, McLeod is one of only two safeties in the NFL to record at least 456 tackles, 13 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles since 2013 -- the other: Jenkins. 

Which is not to say the two are the same player. McLeod is a nice piece to have on the back end of the defense, but he's strictly a safety, not somebody the Eagles are going to build an entire game plan or scheme around. 

At two years for $12 million, that's perfectly OK. The Eagles need some semblance of stability in the secondary. As of this moment, McLeod is the team's only full-time starter set to return to his same position. 

And 2019 was a nice rebound for McLeod after missing almost the entire previous season with an injury. He turns 30 in June and is coming off a year with 76 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 16 games. 

At this point, we're probably not going to see McLeod going to any Pro Bowls. He's just a solid, affordable veteran, something the Eagles almost desperately needed in their secondary now. 


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Eagles free agent grades: Jalen Mills, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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