It was just about two years ago that Jason Babin showed up at Lehigh.
On Aug. 4, 2009, the Eagles announced that they had signed Babin and linebacker Matt Wilhelm. On the same day, the Birds signed first-round pick Jeremy Maclin, meaning they had to waive Jervonte Jackson, Courtney Robinson and Marcus Thigpen.
Those transactions happen every summer at training camp. I remember Babin speaking to a sparse crowd in the tent adjacent to the practice fields. Yesterday, Andy Reid spoke in the same tent, and it was hard to find a seat. When Babin stepped up to the mic, many reporters didn't even bother to ask him a question. At one point, I remember him explaining his tattoo situation.
But things can change quickly in the NFL. In 2009, while Babin's signing was initially believed to be insignificant, he fought his way onto the roster. He didn't even dress for four of the team's first five games, before becoming a small part of the defensive line rotation.
Now, after one season in which Babin notched 12.5 sacks with the Titans, he's returning to Philadelphia for a reported five-year deal worth $28M and $5-$6M guaranteed (according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean).
Babin spent much of the offseason discussing his special relationship with Jim Washburn and always seemed open to coming back to Philadelphia.
"Obviously, Jim Washburn being the reason, and they're an organization that, honestly, they like to win, and got a guy like Mike Vick," Babin answered yesterday, when asked by PFT's Mike Florio why the Eagles were appealing.
So how does he fit in? What does this mean for Brandon Graham? And is a five-year deal too much for a 31-year-old player? Those are the questions I'm being asked on Twitter and in our chat.
Let's start with how he fits in. Babin will line up at defensive end in Jim Washburn's defensive line rotation. I wrote about this last week, but it's worth revisiting now. According to Pro Football Focus, Babin played about 59.7 percent of the snaps last season in Tennessee. Washburn used eight guys in his normal rotation.
And I'd expect that to be the case here. The Eagles used a rotation of their own last year, with the only exception being Trent Cole, who played about 89.4 percent of the snaps. In other words, Babin could have pretty much the same role here that he had last year when he had 12.5 sacks. It will be Cole who will be likely asked to adjust.
But that is probably a smart move by the Eagles, considering that Cole has worn down towards the end of the season. Check out my post from earlier this offseason for evidence.
As for Graham, I don't know what the Eagles expect to get out of him, but signing Babin doesn't tell me their feelings one way or another. Again, the Eagles need four good defensive ends. Whenever Graham is healthy, he can join Babin, Cole and someone else - possibly Darryl Tapp, Juqua Parker or one of the other guys (Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp, Philip Hunt, Victor Abiamiri).
And finally, the contract. Remember that when you hear contract lengths (in this case, five years), it doesn't really mean anything. That is only important to the agents. What's important is how the contract is structured and how much guaranteed money is involved. In this case $5M to $6M is reportedly guaranteed, meaning the Eagles will likely be able to cut Babin at some point if they feel his age has caught up to him and he's no longer effective.
As for Babin being 31 years old, that's a bit of a concern, but remember, it's not like this guy has been a full-time starter for the last decade. He only started 30 games in his first six seasons, so it's reasonable to expect that the wear and tear is less than normal.
Overall, I like the signing. The contract terms seem reasonable, and the Eagles got someone who they know can get after the passer in Washburn's system to play opposite Cole.
The Birds have an opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl in the next two seasons, and I'm not sure how anyone could argue that this move did not make them better for 2011.
If they land Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kevin Kolb, as is expected, the Eagles will have filled two of their glaring holes on defense, with linebacker being the next concern.