As safety Malcolm Jenkins tells it, the Saints never spoke to him about returning for the 2014 season.
But that doesn’t make the Philadelphia Eagles’ new free-agent acquisition any less thankful about the five seasons he spent in New Orleans, where he got to know his wife (Morissa), had a daughter and ran a foundation dedicated to serving underprivileged youth.
In an email sent through a publicist, Jenkins — a first-round draft pick for New Orleans who helped the franchise win its lone championship at the end of his rookie season in 2009 — said, “The Saints gave me the opportunity to enter this league, play among great players and for great fans, and win a Super Bowl.
“I met my wife, started a family and built a home in New Orleans, and I am grateful for my time there. Today, I am excited about the opportunity I have to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, get to know the fans, and become part of the ... community. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Jenkins was a defensive captain last season for New Orleans and ranked among the leaders in tackles, pass breakups and interceptions for a team that was No. 2 against the pass. He chipped in another 2.5 sacks and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage and headed into unrestricted free agency Tuesday.
According to Jenkins, he and New Orleans’ brain trust “did not have any discussion about the Saints 2014 season.” The Saints started the day with fewer than $3 million of salary cap space — what little flexibility they had they opted to instead use to come to terms on a six-year, $54 million agreement with safety Jairus Byrd, a three-time Pro Bowler out of Buffalo who’s developed a reputation as a ball hawk after picking off 22 passes and forcing 11 fumbles throughout his five-season career.
That was contrary to the Eagles, who immediately “expressed a huge interest” in Jenkins, he said. Philadelphia — who, coincidentally, New Orleans defeated in the wildcard round of the playoffs last season — signed him to a three-year deal worth more than $16 million an hour or so after the free agency market officially opened.
“They feel I am a perfect fit for their defense out of the safeties out there,” Jenkins said. “Their plans for my role is in line with what I think I do best, and I love the fact that I can be closer to my hometown and family.”
Jenkins was born in Piscataway, N.J., about 70 miles from Philadelphia. “My daughter gets to grow up with her cousins and see her grandparents more often,” he said.
Though the safety will now be plying his trade and raising his family in the northeast, he doesn’t expect the charity work he does through The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation in New Orleans to end.
One of the goals of the foundation — which emphasizes providing mentorship, personal development, leadership, education, life skills, health and recreation to children in “underserved communities” — is still to make a difference in New Orleans, where his professional career began. He’s also done work in New Jersey and in the area surrounding Ohio State, where he went to college.
“I don’t see that changing,” Jenkins said. “I (just) look forward to expanding the foundation’s commitment by adding the great City of Philadelphia to that list.”