A year after he requested to be traded, Mychal Kendricks was released by the Eagles on Tuesday.
Before the team made the move official, Kendricks confirmed his release via text message, but the 27-year-old declined to go into detail about the circumstances. He later told former Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who now works for ESPN, that he balked when asked to take a $4.5 million pay cut from his $6 million salary for 2018.
The Eagles designated Kendricks’ release as post-June 1, according to an NFL source, and thus will save $6 million from their salary cap this year. The remaining $1.6 million of his $7.6 million cap figure will count against next year’s ledger.
Kendricks hasn’t been happy about his role with the Eagles for years, even before a new regime took over two years ago. But he saw his playing time drastically decrease after Jim Schwartz became defensive coordinator in 2016. The Eagles tried to trade him during the 2017 offseason, as per his request, asking for a fifth-round draft pick, but he remained on the roster.
The decision to keep Kendricks paid off after Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon rupture in October. He took Hicks’ snaps in the Eagles’ nickel defense, alongside fellow linebacker Nigel Bradham, and played consistently, if not as spectacularly as he did from 2013-15.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl, of course, but that didn’t stop Kendricks from being on the trading block this offseason. The Eagles signed Corey Nelson to one-year contract at the start of free agency, and when the former Broncos linebacker was asked where he would play, he said the team told him that he would compete for the weak-side spot — Kendricks’ position.
A few weeks later during the owners meetings, Eagles executive Howie Roseman was asked Kendricks’ future.
“Mychal Kendricks is under contract. He played well for us last year,” Roseman said. “These are questions that we go into every year, I feel like. So nothing’s changed in regards to Mychal’s status.”
But the Eagles were once again trying to deal Kendricks, according to several league sources. They just couldn’t find a trade partner before or after the draft, and when organized team activities opened on Tuesday, he declined to take 75 percent pay cut. His market may not be significant, but he will likely earn more than that number with his next team.
Kendricks was spotted walking in street clothes at the NovaCare Complex, but his absence at practice was initially attributed to the minor ankle surgery he underwent in March. News of his release, however, broke a few hours later after coach Doug Pederson and players had been made available to reporters.
The Eagles had no comment beyond their announcement.
They lost another linebacker earlier in the day when veteran Paul Worrilow tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. His season in likely over. Worrilow was signed this offseason to provide middle linebacker depth in light of Hicks’ extensive injury history. While he plays a different spot than Kendricks in base personnel, the Eagles will need to further address the position.
If Hicks, Bradham, and Nelson are to be the projected starters, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Joe Walker are the current top reserves. Gerry could push Nelson. Veteran LaRoy Reynolds and rookie Asantay Brown are also on the roster.
Kendricks spent six seasons in Philadelphia. Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, he started from Day 1. He endured two scheme changes during his tenure — moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2013 and back to a 4-3 in 2016 — but his best moments came as a 3-4 inside linebacker alongside DeMeco Ryans.
Freed to play in space, Kendricks recorded 336 tackles, 15 tackles for losses, eleven sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles during that span. But injuries, particularly of the soft-tissue kind, kept him out of the lineup for extended periods and when Schwartz came aboard he was nudged out by Bradham on passing downs.
Kendricks played only 27 percent of the time in 2016 and even with 2017’s uptick in snaps (59 percent), he failed to force a turnover in the last two seasons.