Malcolm Jenkins' flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Philadelphia was delayed Wednesday afternoon, which was just about the only delay in this free-agent process for the Eagles' new safety. The Eagles targeted Jenkins once free agency opened Tuesday, and Philadelphia quickly emerged as the destination for the former Saint.
Jenkins conceded that he was not in the Saints' plans, and New Orleans replaced him by making Jairus Byrd the highest-paid safety in the NFL. But Jenkins also embraced a new start with the Eagles, where the converted cornerback believes his skill set is aligned with the vision the Eagles have for safeties in their defense.
"Whenever I can [be versatile] and have the freedom to move around and not be stagnant, that's where I had my best years," Jenkins said Wednesday after arriving at the team facility. "I'm not your typical safety. I'm that hybrid that the league is moving toward now."
Jenkins said that because of his cornerback background, he could cover slot receivers and tight ends, yet he's also able to blitz. The Saints defensive captain the last two seasons insisted he could be the "quarterback of the defense," and said that freedom and creativity would allow his talent to blossom.
Jenkins said that freedom helped him in 2010, when he was a second-team all-pro in his first season at safety. With Darren Sharper out of the lineup, his versatility was maximized. Scheme changes in subsequent seasons required him to be used differently, and his production improved in 2013 when his role changed again.
Jenkins' critics would point to missed tackles. The safety said he could point to a bevy of game-changing plays he has made, although he did not deny that tackling will be an area of focus.
"If you were to ask me one of the biggest things I need to improve on, I would say tackling," Jenkins said.
The Eagles have had a void at safety since Brian Dawkins left in 2009. Jenkins is the biggest commitment the team has made in that span, but he cautioned against expecting a Dawkins disciple.
"I think me and Brian Dawkins are different styles," Jenkins said. "What the fans want is that playmaking safety, whether it be from big hits or from interceptions or whatever. You just want that safety that can take control of the defense, be a leader, and make plays."
Jenkins has flashed the potential to be among the NFL's top safeties, and at 26 he should be in the prime years of his career. He said he wanted to avoid "dysfunctional" organizations and was attracted to the Eagles' emergence under Chip Kelly and the interest they demonstrated in him. A Piscataway, N.J., native with a 3-month-old daughter, he also appreciated moving closer to home.
If he thrives in Philadelphia, he'll still be in position for another payday before he hits 30. But the Saints' moves showed what they thought of Jenkins and the safety market, and Jenkins now must prove his worth.
"It doesn't in any way hurt my confidence or put any doubt in my belief," Jenkins said. "I'm looking forward to getting a fresh start in Philly."