A number of factors contributed to safety Quintin Mikell's decline in 2009: the loss of Brian Dawkins, the revolving door at linebacker, the risky play of the cornerbacks and a new defensive coordinator in Sean McDermott.
But Mikell told the Inquirer that he also let his discontent about his contract affect his play last year. Playing for a relatively paltry four-year, $4 million deal, Mikell thought that he deserved an extension as the starting strong safety. But the Eagles had smartly locked him in at a cheap rate before he became a starter, and Mikell had little leverage to get a deal done.
Now 29, Mikell's one of the Eagles' oldest players on a team that's constantly looking to get younger. And the Eagles have never rushed to provide more money to players entering his thirties. But there are a number of factors that suggest Mikell will be in Philly for the next few years.
First, Mikell's really not that old. The Eagles didn't let go of Brian Dawkins until he was 35. Dawkins was, of course, somewhat of an athletic freak, but his case shows that the team is willing to pay an older safety. Giving Mikell an extension of three to four years at age 30 isn't unreasonable. Plus, since Mikell only became an every down player in 2008, he has relatively little wear on his tires.
Second, Mikell's not going to command Antrel Rolle money. Rolle, who got a five-year, $37 million contract this off-season from the Giants, was 27 years old and one of the best safeties in the league. Mikell can be a solid starter, but he's not a difference-maker who deserves a huge deal. The Eagles should be able to compensate him adequately without breaking the bank for an aging player.
Finally and most importantly, Mikell's more valuable in Philadelphia than anywhere else in the NFL. Let's assume for a minute that he has at least as good a season as he had in 2009, and probably an improvement from that down year. Can the Eagles afford to let him go? Even if Nate Allen looks good at free safety this fall, he's still very young. Pairing him with an even more inexperienced replacement at strong safety -- such as 7th-round pick Kurt Coleman -- could be a disaster.
Mikell's leadership and solid veteran play are valuable qualities. I think the Eagles organization realizes that and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will likely extend his contract sometime between now and the off-season.