Jelani Jenkins wasn’t atop any list of priority free agents this offseason.
With only 15 tackles during a contract year, his 2016 campaign for the Miami Dolphins was far from perfect. He says, though, that it was a notable year in his life and has taught him a lesson far more valuable than reported two-year deal he agreed to with the Raiders:
“I would say that was one of the most frustrating years in my life, especially regarding my career. It just kind of taught me how to be resilient, not get my head down but just keep working, keep trying to get back out there on the field and helping the team as much as I could. But, that definitely taught me to just be resilient and I definitely got a chance to learn my body more and more and what it can take, what it can’t take, when it’s time to relax and when it’s time to keep going. All of that definitely helped.”
The 6-foot, 240-pound Jenkins was credited with only 15 tackles over seven starts last season, and has 3.5 sacks to his name over a four-year career, all of them coming in his second stint of 16 games.
Jenkins says a few different teams reached out to the 25-year-old linebacker as the free agent period began, the Raiders were the best fit. Jenkins added that, while he mostly played weak side linebacker, the possibility of being moved around isn’t out of the question:
“Primarily I’ve been the weak side linebacker my whole career and also in the sub package. So, I have to talk to coach for exactly where they see me, but I’m pretty sure if I compare it, my size and abilities to Malcolm Smith, that’s probably where they are imagining me playing at. It’s something I’ll have to see when I sit down with them.”
Jenkins was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida, where he recorded 182 tackles with six sacks and three interceptions.
Oakland figures to add another linebacker or two in this year’s draft, though Jenkins has a chance to make an early impact with the Raiders given the absence of premium talent in the intermediate area of the team’s defense.