Back in NOLA, Malcom Jenkins Looks to Help Saints Return to the “Promised Land”

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

The ‘Promised Land”. It’s a phrase normally associated with the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible, but it’s also a term in the sport of Pro Football that’s used to describe a NFL team or player that reaches their ultimate goal: earning a trip to (and then winning) the Super Bowl.

For soon-to-be 12th year NFL veteran Malcom Jenkins — who originally was drafted by New Orleans out of Ohio State University with the 14th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft — it’s a place where he’s been twice in his career; the first time as a rookie when he helped the Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. And after signing a brand new 4-year contract yesterday with the Black and Gold in NFL Free Agency, it’s a place that he’ll be looking to return to once again.

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

The 32-year old Jenkins, who is still generally regarded as one of the League’s premier defensive players at the free safety position, had spent the past 6 NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team with whom he left New Orleans for as a free agent in the 2014 NFL off-season; and eventually helped lead them to a win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII (52) following the 2017 Season.

However, the 6-foot, 205 pound Piscataway, New Jersey native will now return to NOLA to likely finish his brilliant NFL career; after he agreed in principle yesterday afternoon with the Saints on a 4 year, $32 million contract ($8 million per season) with $16.5 million of it fully guaranteed, per NFL “insider” / reporter Jordan Schultz. The contract also features incentives with regard to playing time, that could allow Jenkins to potentially earn as much as $35 million.

Jenkins actually had an option to play the final year remaining on his previous contract with Philadelphia, that would have earned him $7.6 million this upcoming season; but Eagles team management chose to decline that option on their end and had released him Tuesday morning as they look to go with a younger player at that position.

For the Saints, it also means that last season’s starting free safety (and now unrestricted free agent) Vonn Bell will not be re-signed by New Orleans, presumably now allowing him to leave and sign with another team.

Bell had been with the Saints since they drafted him in the 2nd Round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and had been considered an off-season priority for the Black and Gold. But word has it that Bell is currently seeking more money than what was first believed and had been previously reported; and the Saints decided to turn their attention towards a figurative “family reunion” with Jenkins instead.

As noted yesterday by New Orleans analyst and insider Nick Underhill: Jenkins even now some 12 seasons into his professional career, is still regarded even now as a top-notch safety at his age; and is actually a better player than Bell was in pass coverage. Additionally though, Underjill says that Jenkins is still a solid contributor at defending against the run, and is good at blitzing the quarterback (10 QB “pressures” last season for the Eagles on 85 total blitzes).

Undoubtedly, Jenkins will also serve as a “mentor” in the Saints secondary for talented young fellow safeties Marcus Williams and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson; and his added presence could potentially now give the Saints one of the better safety trios in the entire League.

Jenkins originally began his career with the Saints following an All-American college career for the Buckeyes football program at Ohio State, where he won the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s #1 overall top-rated defensive back during his senior year.

Photo courtesy of

He was taken with the 14th overall selection in the Draft by New Orleans the following Spring, and as a rookie that year ultimately did his part to help the Saints win their first and only World Championship in Super Bowl XLIV over the Colts.

Jenkins ended up playing in NOLA with the Saints for his first 5 NFL seasons, and in 71 games (63 games started), Jenkins tallied a grand total of 359 tackles (276 solo, 83 assisted), 6 interceptions (with 2 “Pick Six” run-backs for touchdowns), 5 fumble recoveries (with 1 returned for a TD), and 4.5 sacks.

He then signed with Philadelphia during 2014 Free Agency to a then 3-year contract for $16,25 million — a relatively small amount that the Saints could have matched had they wanted to — and now all of these years later, it remains as a decision and a move during that time which Saints head coach Sean Payton has said repeatedly that he still regrets to this very day.

In his 6 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Jenkins in 96 games (all 96 games started) tallied 515 tackles (406 solo, 109 assisted), 11 interceptions (with 1 “Pick Six” touchdown), 6 fumble recoveries, and 5.5 sacks. As mentioned above, he led the Eagles defense to unprecedented heights, and also helped them win their first ever Super Bowl championship as well after the 2017 Season, as Philly defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.

In his 11 years total as a professional, Jenkins has played in 167 games (159 starts), and has amassed 874 tackles (682 solo, 192 assisted),  17 interceptions (with 3 “Pick Six” TD’s), 11 fumble recoveries (with 1 returned for a TD), and 10 sacks.

Game #168 of his career will very likely take place in early September — presumably if the 2020 NFL Season still starts on time — with the possibility of any lingering effects of the current coronavirus pandemic still yet to be determined.

But assuming that the on-going health crisis eventually wanes and finally decreases in scope by that point in time (as it is hoped), and things are able to get back to a sense of normalcy; then Jenkins and the Saints’ “family reunion” that was reached yesterday, will be official once he steps onto the field wearing a Black and Gold uniform.

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

And when he does, there won’t be any doubt whatsoever what Jenkins’ top #1 priority will be.

Not long after he won that 2nd Super Bowl with the Eagles a few years ago, Jenkins said this then at the time during an exclusive interview with The national sports beat writer Louisa Thomas:

“This (winning the Super Bowl) is what you work for. The trophy is one thing, but really you work for the feeling. I won a Super Bowl my first year in New Orleans, and I was so young, I couldn’t really appreciate it. After the season was over, I didn’t really do a whole bunch of partying and celebrating; I just sort of went back into resting.”

“Eight years later, I’m like, Man, I wish I enjoyed that more. This time around, I wanted to make sure. In a couple months, we’ll be putting that trophy on a shelf, and getting back to the grind of starting over.”

If everything turns out fine and the NFL is able to resume play once the world’s health crisis finally ends, Malcom Jenkins will be down in NOLA in a few months from now — and exactly right back where his brilliant NFL career first started — as he looks to help the Saints return once again to the “Promised Land”….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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