The reworking of the Eagles into a 3-4 defensive front moved into high gear Monday when the team released Mike Patterson, a source close to the situation told the Daily News, hours after releasing another veteran defensive tackle, Cullen Jenkins.
Patterson, who turns 30 in September, was the Eagles' first-round draft choice, 31st overall, in 2005, and played in 115 games over eight seasons, starting 99 of them. But at 6-1, 300, Patterson fit the smaller, quicker template the Eagles used for defensive linemen under Andy Reid. A 3-4 requires a space-eater nose tackle, flanked by ends big enough tio hold off blockers and set the edge, so mobile linebackers can make tackles.
Patterson's release was not unexpected. Jenkins' even less so.
Patterson's agent, Peter Schaffer, said Patterson leaves with "no hard feelings."
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"Mike is completely appreciative of the opportunity of being an Eagle and thanks the organization and fans," Schaffer said. "He understands the business side of football. Mike feels better than he has in three years, and looks forward to playing many more games in the NFL."
Patterson was a solid, relaible starter for most of his tenure, but his career took a detour when he collapsed at training camp in August 2011. He was found to have a tangle of blood vessels in his brain that required surgery after the 2011 season, and Patterson couldn't get the medical OK to play again until after midseason 2012. Patterson eventually appeared in five Eagles games, as the team stumbled to 4-12.
Given his age, the change to 3-4, and his inability to put up numbers in 2012 because of the surgery, Patterson seemed a likely target for release. He was scheduled to make $4 million this season. There is no cap hit for releasing him, according to Eaglescap.com
After Evan Mathis, Jenkins was probably the best free agent move the Eagles made in their disastrous post lockout spending spree in 2011. But Jenkins was 30 when he arrived, and though the 6-2, 305-pound defensive tackle added leadership and accountability to a struggling defense, he was never a long-term solution. When the Eagles went 4-12 last season and Andy Reid was fired, it seemed likely Jenkins wouldn't be back.
Sure enough, the Eagles announced Monday they'd released Jenkins, a nine-year vet who notched 9.5 sacks in his two seasons here. He was due to make $5.5 million in 2013. The Eagles apparently take a $1.5 million cap hit for releasing him, but obviously, that's a savings of $4 million, and the $1.5 they have to pay him will be offset by whatever he might get from another team. (That won't affect the cap charge.)
Indications are the team did not offer to keep Jenkins at a lower figure, as it seems to be trying to do with corner Nnamdi Asomugha. The Eagles owe Asomugha a lot more money -- $4 million if he's released -- and Asomugha plays a position where it is tougher to find replacements.
With the Eagles presumably moving to a 3-4 base, it's unclear how Jenkins would fit in, though he played in that setup as a younger man in Green Bay.
General manager Howie Roseman said in a statement released by the Eagles that he spoke with Jenkins today to tell him of the decision. Roseman said Jenkins "has been a very productive player in the league for a long time, but we felt it was in our team's best interests that we go in a different direction."
Roseman said releasing Jenkins now gives him more time to sign with another team.
"Thank you Eagles for everything the last 2 years," Jenkins tweeted. "Thank you fans. Sorry we didn't accomplish anything, but thank you all. Best wishes ... let's see where the next chapter takes us."
It's a good draft for defensive linemen, plus there's free agency starting March 12. D-line might be the place where Chip Kelly's template is most different from what the Eagles stockpiled under Andy Reid. Who else could leave? Darryl Tapp and Derek Landri are pending unrestricted free agents. They won't be back. Hard to see how Phillip Hunt plays in a 3-4, unless he can drop into coverage as a linebacker.
Who's sure to stay? Fletcher Cox. Trent Cole. Brandon Graham. Vinny Curry, because he was a second-round pick last year. Cedric Thornton, probably. Antonio Dixon at nose tackle. And that might be it.