Darren Sharper, 34, is the Saints' starting free safety, but moving Jenkins there clearly is insurance in case the veteran has problems with his surgically repaired knee. It also allows the team to groom Jenkins to one day take over Sharper's spot.
Sharper had minor microfracture surgery on his left knee following the Super Bowl, but Payton said earlier this month that the safety is expected to be ready for training camp in July.
New Orleans drafted Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson in the first round last month -- a move that triggered speculation the team could move Jenkins to safety.
Payton also said Thursday that he isn't sure if restricted free agents Pierre Thomas and Jammal Brown will participate in mandatory minicamp June 4-6 after each skipped three voluntary OTAs this week.
Brown, an offensive tackle, hasn't attended any voluntary workouts, and there's a chance he could be traded before the season starts. Brown missed last season because of a hip injury and was replaced by Jermon Bushrod, who played well and currently is the starting left tackle.
Thomas, the Saints' leading rusher last season, has participated in the team's offseason conditioning program, but he didn't show up for this week's first round of OTAs.
Payton added that he wouldn't comment on either player's contract status or project when or if each would return.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.