The first sign that Winston Justice's days with the Eagles were numbered may have come a year ago when the tackle first met Howard Mudd.
Justice and Mudd sat and watched film together shortly thereafter and every time the tackle perfectly executed a vertical step move, the Eagles' new offensive line coach told him it was wrong.
"I was getting yelled at for stuff that Juan [Castillo] would say, 'Good job,'" Justice said last April.
When Justice arrived for training camp several months later, his injured knee was still not healthy and he was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List. With each passing week that he was unable to practice and learn Mudd's new blocking methods it become more and more apparent that he was out as the starting right tackle.
"I think we started out on the wrong foot," Justice said of Mudd. "I started off injured and I don't think that he liked that. I still respected him as a coach and I still learned a lot from him. But we just didn't see eye to eye."
Justice's six-year run with the Eagles ended today when the team traded him to Indianapolis. The Eagles and Colts swapped sixth round picks, so the Eagles moved up from the 17th spot in the round to the second. While the Eagles were able to get something in return for a player they were probably going to release anyway, it was a dubious end for the team's 2006 second-round draft pick.
His career with Eagles got off to a rough start when he tossed in at left tackle against the Giants in his second season and defensive end Osi Umenyiora abused him. Many fans never forgot his rough first outing, or that he ultimately failed to deliver on the high expectations that accompany a high draft pick.
"I wasn't surprised. Anything can happen," Justice said of the trade. "Last year both sides were unhappy and I knew pretty much then that something was going to happen. It's the best way it could have happened. I have the opportunity to play for a young, up-and-coming team."
By trading Justice the Eagles were able to save themselves about $2.4 million against the salary cap for this season. They'll have to eat about $1.9 million of the remaining proration as Justice was signed through 2013. But the move clears some space as did the release of center Jamaal Jackson a few hours later.
Jackson was another of the Eagles' veteran offensive linemen that didn't mesh with Mudd. Two seasons ago, Justice and Jackson were the starting center and right tackle on the Eagles' line. Justice took over for Shawn Andrews during the 2009 training camp, despite not much action in his first three seasons, and by November received a four-year extension.
By the end of the 2010 season, though, his production slipped. He suffered a knee injury and continued to play.
"If I had to do it again I wouldn't have played on it," Justice said of his injured knee. "But you can't look back in hindsight. At the time I felt obligated to the team, my coaches and the players to play through the injury. But ultimately it set me back."
Justice underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in February. By March the NFL owners locked out the players. Justice was the Eagles' union rep, but he said the job did not take away from his rehab. Still, the Eagles were unable to closely monitor his recovery. When the lockout was finally lifted in July and camp started, Justice had made little progress.
The Eagles tried to replace Justice with almost every available linemen. But when no one was able to win the job, Todd Herremans was moved from left guard to right tackle. He pulled off the switch without missing a beat and his replacement, Evan Mathis, was equally impressive.
Justice did start at left tackle against the Redskins when Jason Peters was injured. And he held his own. But it was back to the bench when Peters returned.
"I think I knew then that the writing was on the wall," Justice said.
Justice will be joining a Colts team that is undergoing a near-complete overhaul. There's a chance he'll be blocking for quarterback Andrew Luck, widely expected to be the No. 1 draft pick in April's draft.
"I doesn't matter who is back there," Justice said. "I have to go there and prove something."