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Mychal Kendricks finally released by Eagles, for real

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It’s the end of an era

NFL: Preaseason-New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After years of rumors, debates, and uncertainty, the Eagles and Mychal Kendricks have finally finished their dance. The team officially released him on Tuesday afternoon.

A 2012 second-round selection, Kendricks looked like a strong defensive piece in early season—especially after defensive coordinator Billy Davis installed the 3-4 look in 2013 under head coach Chip Kelly, which allowed Kendricks to play inside ‘backer. After three seasons with the Eagles, he did enough in the eyes of the front office to earn a four-year, $29 million extension.

Calf and hamstring injuries began plaguing Kendricks around the time of his extension—the 2015 season--which opened the door for rookie Jordan Hicks to take his snaps and make meaningful plays. As such, following the change of coaching staff (Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz) and thereby scheme, Kendricks was looking down the barrel of another shift: weakside linebacker in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3.

The 2016 offseason was the first time Kendricks’ name floated on the trade block—but as we all well know, Kiko Alonso was the linebacker who ended up getting the ax, giving Kendricks the opportunity to start at WLB in 2016. Struggling in his new role and often gimpy, Kendricks only saw 26.8% of the defensive snaps that season—and, seeing his playing time decrease, Kendricks demanded a trade in the 2017 offseason.

Philadelphia was either unable or unwilling to honor that request—which wasn’t terrible news for Kendricks, as he went on to start on a Super Bowl winning team. While Kendricks proved valuable in the wake of Jordan Hicks’ Achilles tear, he broke 50% of the defensive snap count only once before the Hicks injury, again falling victim to Jim Schwartz’ favoring of 2-LB sets.

Kendricks was rumored once again to be available for trade, but given the known lack of interest from Philadelphia’s camp, it’s unsurprising that many teams failed to bite—and as such, Philadelphia cut Kendricks. They’ve done a good job this offseason acquiring bodies behind him: Denver’s Corey Nelson, Detroit’s Paul Worrilow, and Atlanta’s LaRoy Reynolds were all brought in through free agency—(though Worrilow was carted off the field today during OTAs)—and Joe Walker (Year 3) and Nate Gerry (Year 2) are young players who could step into expanded roles with improved play.

Despite cutting Kendricks on May 22nd, the Eagles will designate Kendricks as a post-June 1 cut. By doing so, they save $6M of Kendricks’ $7.6M figure in 2018, thereby only putting $1.6M dead money on the books. To do otherwise would only open up $4.4M, killing $3.2M—and given that Philadelphia likely won’t do much with $4.4M in 10 days, it makes sense to wait and get the money after June 1st.

Kendricks, turning 28 in September, is likely to garner interest across the league as a strong blitzer and good athlete. His best play came in a 3-4 inside linebacker role, which allowed him to run freely from sideline to sideline and protected him from frequent man-to-man coverage responsibilities. Teams like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and New York (Giants) should all prove interested.

Expect Philadelphia to continue playing Malcolm Jenkins as a quasi-linebacker in base sets, heavily relying on 3-safety looks. The line between MIKE and SAM will be further blurred, I’d imagine, as both Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks have defensive play-calling experience. Corey Nelson should be first in line to win the ‘starting’ WILL job, while Nate Gerry is likely the next player after him.