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Closer look at the Eagles’ safety situation heading into 2019

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Eagles training camp position preview: Safety.

Philadelphia Eagles Minicamp Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is almost here. Players report to the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, July 24. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. We continue today by taking a look at the safety position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive line | Defensive end | Defensive tackle | Linebacker | Cornerback.


The players

MALCOLM JENKINS

The big thing to watch with Jenkins is how the Eagles handle his contract situation.

After skipping voluntary spring workouts for the first time in his career, Jenkins showed up to mandatory minicamp and told reporters:

I feel like I’ve outplayed that contract. [...] When you’re under contract, you can’t be out to be the highest paid out there, nor do I want to be, but you want to be within the ballpark of what your value is.”

Jenkins noted at the time that negotiations with the Eagles were “ongoing.” There’s since been no word of any progress on a new deal. We’ll see if that changes as camp draws closer.

The Eagles could be hesitant to give more money to Jenkins because they’re worried about a decline in performance. Jenkins turns 32 this season and he’s logged nearly 10,000 total snaps since entering the league in 2009. That’s about 1,000 per year, which is a lot of wear and tear on one’s body.

At the same time, what kind of message does it send when the Eagles aren’t willing to reward an extremely durable and versatile team captain who played a big part in the team winning a championship? If you’re the Eagles, don’t you want Jenkins to be who other players model themselves after?

The feeling here is the Eagles need to do what it takes to make Jenkins happy. He’s critical to their success. And it doesn’t seem crazy to bet on Jenkins aging relatively well considering that he takes very good care of his body.

For 2019, Jenkins should resume his role as a versatile defender for Jim Schwartz to work with. A look back at his 2018 snap count:

RODNEY MCLEOD

McLeod is coming off a season-ending knee injury he suffered back in September 2018. The 29-year-old is optimistic about his chances of playing in Week 1. McLeod did warm up with the team during spring practices and also participated in some position drills, so that seems like a positive development.

As is the case with any player coming off an ACL tear, it’ll be interesting to see just how effective McLeod will be this year. He was playing well prior to his injury last season. He has a lot of financial motivation to pick up where he left off considering he’ll be a free agent after 2019.

The Eagles should at least be able to count on McLeod being a solid starting free safety. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year.

ANDREW SENDEJO

Shortly after the Eagles signed him in March, fans were quick to remember Sendejo as the Vikings defender that LeGarrette Blount bowled over in the 2018 NFC Championship Game (38-7).

Once an enemy, Sendejo could now potentially be a significant contributor to the Eagles’ defense. The 31-year-old took took all of his snaps at first team safety in the spring with Jenkins and McLeod missing. Even when Jenkins returned, it was still Sendejo out there on the back end of the defense. And he didn’t look bad out there.

Sendejo is looking like the favorite to replace Corey Graham as the Eagles’ third safety. Schwartz has already referred to him as “Dejo” (pronounced: Day-ho) so #NicknameAnalytics are working in his favor.

Though he has a reputation as a physical box safety, Sendejo has actually lined up much more often as a free safety dating back to when he first became a full-time starter in 2013.

TRE SULLIVAN

Sullivan, a 2017 undrafted rookie free agent signing, is back for another summer with the Eagles. He took all the first team safety reps next to Sendejo during OTAs when both Jenkins and McLeod were missing. Then Sullivan headed back to the second team once Jenkins returned for minicamp.

Sullivan was seeing some significant playing time down the stretch as a third safety in 2018 when the Eagles were down to starting Jenkins and Graham. He should compete for a third or fourth spot on the team this year but there’s no guarantee he makes the roster. Sullivan could really use a strong summer to make his case.

BLAKE COUNTESS

The Eagles were able to reacquire their 2016 sixth-round pick when the Rams waived him in a cost-cutting move back in May. Shortly after claiming him, Philadelphia signed Countess to an extension.

Countess, 25, figures to be a backup safety and key special teams contributor for the Eagles. He’s essentially the new and improved version of Chris Maragos.

DEIONDRE’ HALL

After trading a seventh-round pick to the Bears to get him, Hall barely played for the Eagles in 2018. Kind of a weird pickup.

Hall actually saw some first team reps as a third safety during spring drills with Jenkins and McLeod missing. He had a couple plays on the ball that stood out.

Hall seems to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the roster picture. He’ll have to stand out this summer in order to beat out the likes of Sullivan and/or Countess.

TRAE ELSTON

Elston, briefly a member of the 2017 Eagles, was brought back to Philly last month. He’s probably just a camp body. But then again, his presence on the roster could be key to winning a championship.

Number of seasons the Eagles won a Super Bowl without Trae Elston on their roster: 0

Number of seasons the Eagles won a Super Bowl with Trae Elston on their roster: 1

You can’t argue with math, folks.

GODWIN IGWEBUIKE

Igwebuike picked off his former college teammate Clayton Thorson on the final play of the Eagles’ first minicamp practice. This is probably the most interesting thing I’ll be able to write about Igwebuike this summer. Camp body.

How will it play out?

Jenkins will continue to spend a majority of his playing time as a box safety while McLeod resumes his role as a starting free safety. Sendejo could get playing time in big nickel packages (the old Corey Graham role). Sullivan, Countess, and Hall are primarily competing for fourth and/or fifth safety spots. Countess’ special teams ability should help his chances of making the team in some capacity.

The Eagles have some injury, age, and contract issues at safety. Things could play out poorly if McLeod isn’t 100% and Jenkins starts to feel the effects of playing so many snaps. On the flip side, the Eagles could end up having a good pair of starting safety with Sendejo working in as a capable role player.

Overall, I think the Eagles should be OK at safety.

Who could be a surprise cut?

COMPENSATORY PICK TRIGGER ALERT: If you don’t comp pick talk, well, this isn’t the section for you!

It’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles handle Sendejo in light of comp pick considerations. As it currently stands, Sendejo’s roster presence (or L.J. Fort’s, depending on how you look at it) means the Eagles are currently not projected to receive a 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick they’d otherwise get for losing Jordan Hicks in free agency. The Eagles can get this pick back by waiving Sendejo prior to Week 10. So, maybe the team keeps the veteran safety around and sees how things go before making a decision on him. If Sendejo’s serving as a valuable contributor to the team, they could just keep him around and lose the pick. If he’s playing awful, though, they can cut him to save the pick.

Of course, keeping Sendejo beyond Week 1 means his 2019 salary is fully guaranteed. Otherwise, cutting Sendejo before Week 1 would allow the Eagles to save $800,000 in cap space with $500,000 in dead money.

Another thing to consider is the Eagles could trade Sendejo if some team gets desperate for safety help. As I previously wrote about with Fort, trading Sendejo for even just a seventh-round pick would actually be like trading him for a fourth-round comp pick in addition to the seventh. Not to mention the trade would save the Eagles $1.03 million in cap space compared to just $270,000 in dead money.

Ultimately, I think Sendejo will stick around on the 53-man roster. I think the coaching staff will want him around. But the front office must consider the draft pick and salary cap implications of keeping Sendejo.

Poll

On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ safety position? (5 being the most.)

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    5
    (142 votes)
  • 49%
    4
    (703 votes)
  • 35%
    3
    (505 votes)
  • 3%
    2
    (55 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (10 votes)
1415 votes total Vote Now