Eagles lose DeSean Jackson to injury, release Jason Babin
The Eagles started what could be the beginning of sweeping personnel changes by releasing former Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin on Tuesday. They also placed top receiver DeSean Jackson on injured reserve after Jackson suffered multiple fractured ribs on Monday night, ending his season.
One person not going anywhere yet is Andy Reid, who will coach Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys, according to a source.
The Babin news was the biggest of the day, especially because the 32-year-old was a starter and a 2011 Pro Bowler who led the team last season with 18 sacks and this season with 51/2 sacks. Yet the move allows the Eagles to distribute Babin's playing time to a collection of young players at the position, including Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham.
"We have an abundance of defensive linemen, and we have some young guys that I think are energy givers and deserve an opportunity to play," Reid said Tuesday night after his radio show. "The thing I can tell you about Jason is, Jason came to work every day. He works his tail off in practice and games. This also gives him the opportunity to catch on with somebody."
Reid said that Babin was not being blamed for the team's struggles and that the timing of the move was "the right thing to do." Reid said defensive line coach Jim Washburn, a supporter of Babin's, was fine with the move.
Babin was in the second season of a five-year, $28 million contract and was due to make a $5.575 million base salary this season. The Eagles are not responsible for paying the remaining $1.64 million of Babin's salary because Babin previously claimed termination pay in his career, according to a league source. He is subject to waivers. If he is unclaimed, he becomes a free agent.
In Monday's 30-22 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Babin played 40 of 67 defensive snaps. Graham played 30 snaps and Curry played 21 snaps.
"I was definitely surprised by the move," Babin said on the NFL Network on Tuesday. "That's the way football goes. You can never be too surprised. There are crazy things [that] happen every week, every year."
The move seemed to galvanize Eagles fans, some of whom saw Babin's histrionics as the embodiment of this season's underachieving roster. The Eagles are 3-8 one year after finishing 8-8 following the assembly of their celebrated free-agent class. Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha were the headliners in that class.
Other veterans could lose starting spots, if not roster spots, as the season proceeds. The next five games will require Reid to make decisions that could be important for the long-term outlook of the franchise. They include whether Reid will play Nick Foles or Michael Vick at quarterback and how he will balance lineup decisions between young players and veterans through the final month.
"The young guys are all having an opportunity to play, and I'm not sitting up here telling you you'll have a bunch of [injured] guys coming back," Reid said. "So those guys are likely to have the chance to continue to play and continue to get better, and that's how you approach it."
The most important decision would seem to be quarterback. Vick, out with a concussion, still has not passed his ImPACT test, which is a baseline test for his cognitive functioning. When he is cleared to play, though, Reid will have a decision to make: Start the 32-year-old, $100-million quarterback during a lost season or play the 23-year-old, third-round pick whose underwhelming first two starts raise concerns about whether he can become the team's franchise quarterback.
"First off, I want Mike to get healthy," Reid said. "I haven't gone beyond that thinking right there. Just make sure he's all right, and Nick, if he's in there, to continue to play well. If I had to tell you today, you're probably going to see Nick again here. We just have to concentrate on getting him better and ready to go."
The other decisions could come throughout the lineup. Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have had inconsistent seasons at cornerback. The Eagles could turn to second-year cornerback Curtis Marsh to see what he could do. The safeties have struggled this season, and rookie David Sims could get another start.
"We've evaluated that," Reid said. "We think that right now, and I'm saying this right now, we're still early off in this game. But that's not where we're going."
Of course, Reid made that statement at noon. The Babin decision was announced nearly three hours later and was clear evidence that more change could be on the way, that the young players on the roster will have a chance to showcase themselves during December.
All About Babin
Here is a look at Jason Babin's time with the Eagles:
July 28, 2011: Babin, a free agent, agreed to terms with the Eagles on a five-year contract worth $28 million. Sources said $6 million of it was guaranteed. "I think Philly likes a good comeback story," Babin said that day, "and that's what I am."
Sept. 11, 2011: In his first game as an Eagle, Babin got two sacks and four tackles in a win over the Rams.
Oct. 6, 2011: Babin ripped the NFL for fining him $15,000 for an illegal hit on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
Dec. 18, 2011: Babin recorded three sacks for the third time of the season and in the second straight game, against the Jets.
Dec. 27, 2011: Babin was named to his second straight Pro Bowl after racking up 18 sacks, tied for second in the NFL.
May 30, 2012: Fresh off a 12-day bear hunting trip to Alaska, Babin said he planned to run with the bulls in Spain in July.
June 1, 2012: Babin said his running with the bulls was off. "Things change," he said. "Times change."
August, 2012: Babin missed all of the preseason with a calf injury.
Sept. 9, 2012: Babin recorded his first sack of the season in a win over the Browns.
Sept. 14, 2012: Babin was fined $15,750 for roughing Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Sept. 16, 2012: Babin played in his 100th NFL game.
Oct. 28, 2012: Babin played a season-low 31 snaps in a 30-17 loss to the Falcons.
Oct. 30, 2012: Babin questioned the loyalty of some Eagles fans on Twitter.
Nov. 5, 2012: Babin got his first sack in five games in a loss to the Saints.
Nov. 8, 2012: A poll of NFL players by the Sporting News named Babin the sixth-dirtiest player in the league.
Monday night: Babin picked up a sack in his third straight game in a loss to the Panthers.
Tuesday: Babin was released by the Eagles.
Here are the Eagles regulars on offense who are expected to start Sunday vs. Dallas:
FB Stanley Havili
TE Brent Celek
LT King Dunlap
LG Evan Mathis
WR Jeremy Maclin
Here are the Eagles regulars on offense who are not expected to start (or play at all) Sunday because of injuries or demotion:
QB Michael Vick (concussion)
RB LeSean McCoy (concussion)
WR DeSean Jackson (ribs)
C Jason Kelce (knee)
RG Danny Watkins (ankle and demotion)
RT Todd Herremans (foot)
Eagles at Cowboys
Sunday at 8:30 p.m. (NBC10)
Line: Cowboys by 9
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZBerm.