Eagles reach contract agreement with safety Mikell

Facing a safety position in a state of flux, the Philadelphia Eagles have reached agreement with veteran Quintin Mikell on a four-year contract extension, a move that lends the team some stability in the interior secondary, and takes a valuable player off the free agent market.

Mikell, 26, will sign a four-year contract that includes a seven-figure bonus which, according to several sources, will make him one of the highest paid nickel defenders in the league. Without the new deal, Mikell, who has been targeted by the Eagles for an extension since the end of the 2006 season, would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency on Friday.

Retaining the versatile Mikell was a key for the Eagles, who will lose former starting strong safety Michael Lewis, a one-time Pro Bowl performer, as a free agent. Free safety Brian Dawkins remains one of the league's premier players but, at age 33, is moving toward the end of his career. Sean Considine, a young player the Eagles like, needs more seasoning.

Given that scenario at safety, the Eagles made retaining Mikell a priority.

"He's been a really good football player for us," general manager Tom Heckert said. "He's been a vital contributor on special teams and has played well for us when given the opportunity [from scrimmage]."

Philadelphia officials had said that if both Lewis and Mikell departed the club in free agency, they would have been forced to address the position either through the draft or with a veteran addition. Keeping Mikell, Heckert allowed, alleviates the urgency to add another safety.

A former Boise State standout, Mikell was signed as an undrafted college free agent in 2003. He has appeared in 62 games in four seasons and has registered 99 tackles, one interception and four passes defensed playing from scrimmage. On special teams, Mikell has averaged nearly 20 tackles per season.

Philadelphia officials were also working to complete an extension with defensive end Juqua Thomas before the start of free agency and were confident that a deal will be struck to keep him off the unrestricted market.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.