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Jenkins And Eagles: A Win-Win

"It was strange," said Jenkins, who on Tuesday agreed to a restructuring of what essentially was a one-year contract signed in 2011 that now gives him some security as an Eagle through, reportedly, 2014, and that gives the Eagles some extra room within this season's salary cap.

"Dealing with the media is something that I had been doing before. I had been used to dealing with the media, talking with the media, making myself available. But when it comes to being in a new spot and all of a sudden everybody is asking you what your perspective is on a team that you've only been with for a month or two, with people that you really haven't known for that long, it's different.

"Being with the same team for your whole career (Jenkins played seven seasons in Green Bay prior to joining the Eagles) ... and then all of a sudden you get taken out of that norm, you've got to adjust really fast.

"It was strange at first, but you have no choice but to grown into it and learn day by day."

That's kind of the way the Eagles see this whole thing, this radical change of a roster from 2010 to 2011 -- and really, and this is a different story for a different day, how the roster has been turnover over so completely since the 2008 season -- and how, with a full offseason ahead, with a chance for the players and coaches to actually get to know each other, how much they can make it work in 2012.

Jenkins led the locker room last season, no question about that. He arrived with a veteran's demeanor and a Super Bowl ring, and he was picked out of the crowd by the media, and thus, the fans, as the leader. He was always at his locker providing answers. He was always accountable. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, even though he was one of the newest Eagles.

It was bizarre, really, and it spoke to a lack of chemistry in the locker room for much of the 8-8 season. There just wasn't enough time, in retrospect, for all of the new pieces to mesh. That is no excuse. The Eagles deserved every bit of 8-8. They made too many mistakes in every phase of the game. The front office, the coaches and the players share the responsibility.

But last year is last year and it's over and we move on with optimism. With great excitement. Doing the win/win deal with Jenkins was a terrific first step. The Eagles created some cap room, reported to be in excess of $1 million, and Jenkins gets a long-term deal, nice money, and a chance to do what he wants to do.

"Retire as an Eagle," he said.

Plus, it keeps a really good football player in the fold. Jenkins earned first alternate to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Eagles, anchoring the interior of the defensive line and providing some needed pass-rush punch, in addition to physical play in the trenches. He can play inside and he can play defensive end. He was durable in 2011. He was a leader.

Now the Eagles have Jenkins teaming with Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon (a restricted free agent who should return). Trevor Laws is a pending unrestricted free agent, but it would be not a surprise at all should the Eagles get something done with him prior to free agency and give Laws another year working with coach Jim Washburn to see how he develops. Derek Landri, a tough guy and a hustler, is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and his future is uncertain. Youngster Cedric Thornton is worth keeping an eye on should he attack the offseason as the Eagles hope he does.

Does keeping Jenkins mean the Eagles will ignore the defensive tackle spots in free agency or the draft? No, not at all. They won't pass up a tackle they think can make a difference.

However, defensive tackle is not a pressing need. It's a good situation to have with free agency just a few weeks ahead.

And Jenkins, for his part, thinks a year with as much continuity as possible, coupled with those four straight wins to end 2011, will pay off in 2012.

"I know for us up front, the defensive line, we have great chemistry that took time to build through the season," said Jenkins. "I think the one thing that the offseason is really going to help us with is to even better help us develop that chemistry throughout the team.

"That's something that we really have to have on our minds throughout the offseason."

Making Jenkins happy, keeping him in the mix, that was the first step of what is going to be a fascinating next couple of months. The Eagles have a big-time leader here, someone who is established in the locker room. Jenkins fills that void, along with being the kind of mix-it-up defensive lineman every team wants.

Next step? The Scouting Combine fills the calendar the rest of the week. While in Indianapolis, the Eagles will dig deeper into their scouting for April's draft, and they will probably take some steps toward other moves, too. All of the agents will be there. Meetings are going to happen. With a March 5 deadline for applying the franchise tag, we could get some clarity on the DeSean Jackson situation and maybe even the one involving left guard Evan Mathis, a pending unrestricted free agent, before too long.

I never thought that Jenkins would leave. Still, it's a relief and a positive move to make his deal official on Tuesday, the day that really gets this offseason in motion heading toward September's season-opening kickoff.

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