According to a report from Howard Eskin (and also reported by Jeff McLane), Eagles starting outside linebacker Trent Cole suffered a broken hand during Philadelphia 37-28 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night. Eskin reports that Cole may need surgery and might miss the Eagles' Week 16 game against the Washington Redskins. McLane notes that Cole's status for the rest of the season is uncertain.
Cole has had a productive season. He's recorded 6.5 sacks in 14 games played along with three forced fumbles. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus rates Cole as their 14th best 3-4 outside linebacker. The veteran pass rusher has struggled in recent weeks, however. He hasn't recorded a sack since Week 12. He's also committed four penalties in his last four games. No 3-4 outside linebacker has committed more penalties than Cole has this season with nine. Only two 4-3 defensive ends have been penalized more often than Cole.
If Cole can't play, expect Brandon Graham to step up in his place. Graham typically plays around 30% of Philadelphia's defensive snaps as a rotational player. He will be required to play in a much larger role if Cole can't play. It's an interesting situation because Graham is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. This could be a great opportunity for him to showcase his talent in extended playing time.
The only other outside linebacker the Eagles have on the roster outside of Cole, Graham, and Connor Barwin is Bryan Braman. Braman mostly contributes on special teams. Eagles first round pick Marcus Smith II was originally playing at outside linebacker before being moved to the inside position during the season. Perhaps the Eagles would consider moving Smith II back outside if Cole's season is over.
Cole's cap number shoots up to $11,625,000 in 2015. He can be released for a savings of nearly $8 million. If Cole can't play again this year, it's possible he may have already suited up for the Eagles for the last time.