The Eagles have restructured Cullen Jenkins' contract and will keep the veteran defensive tackle for next season and possibly beyond.
Jenkins was scheduled to earn $7.5 million for next season, including a $5 million bonus due on March 13. He will still collect the bonus but will be have his 2012 salary reduced from $2.5 million to $820,000, according to Andrew Brandt of ESPN.com. Next season he will receive a $1.5 million guaranteed salary along with a $1 million roster bonus next March.
The remaining length of Jenkins' deal was also trimmed from four years to three, an NFL source said. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old said that the restructuring was something he welcomed because his high salary could have led to the Eagles releasing him.
"I'm actually pretty relieved because I was worried sitting there playing a waiting game again and you just wait to see whats going to go on, whats going to happen," Jenkins said during a conference all organized by the Eagles. "You hearing all the rumors about people saying, 'They’re going to release him and they’re not going to pay him.'”
Jenkins had 5.5 sacks in his first year as an Eagle and emerged as a locker-room leader.
"We are very excited about having Cullen back on our football team,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in a news release. "Cullen made an immediate impact for us this year on and off the field. We look forward to a great future together with him in an Eagles uniform."
Jenkins said that he knew by the end of the season that his deal would have to be restructured if he was to return to the Eagles.
Before he left for Orlando on Friday with his family for his eldest daughter's gymnastics competition, Jenkins said, his agents contacted him to let him know that they would be negotiating with the Eagles on a new deal. By the time he returned on Monday, he received a text message from Eagles coach Andy Reid welcoming him back even though he never really left.
"I'm not one of those type of players that bounce around, try to get as much as he can get," Jenkins said. "I wanted some security. I wanted to be somewhere that I liked and that liked me."
Jenkins said that the restructuring would make it more likely for him to remain here after this coming season.
"I wanted to be able to retire an Eagle," Jenkins said.
The new deal will give the Eagles a little more than $1.5 million in salary cap space. Jenkins was asked if he thought his new deal would allow the Eagles to sign some of their own free agents, namely wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
“Definitely," Jenkins said. "If by me doing this can help the team in any way it’s something you have to feel good about. Obviously, you have to wait and see what direction the team wants to go."
The Eagles still have some uncertainty at defensive tackle. Antonio Dixon, a restricted free agent, suffered a season-ending torn triceps last October, but is expected to make a full recovery. Mike Patterson underwent brain surgery to correct an AVM, but Reid said he should be healthy by the start of training camp.
Derek Landri and Trevor Laws are both slated to become unrestricted free agents. The Eagles could try to retain both, although there could be a bidding war for Landri. They did try to work out an extension with Laws during last season, league sources said, but ultimately decided to put off in-season contract talks with any of their free agents.
There will be other free agent defensive tackles on the market, of course. Or the Eagles could elect to select one high in a draft that is said to be deep at that position.