After years of speculation that the Philadelphia Eagles were looking to move on from Mychal Kendricks, it finally actually happened on Tuesday afternoon. The team unceremoniously released their 2012 second-round pick following their first OTA practice of 2018.
Here are some thoughts on this move.
This was financially inevitable
There was just no way the Eagles were going to keep Mychal Kendricks on the roster at his $7.6 million cap figure. I’ve said that all along. Allow to me to rehash my argument one final time:
I know a bunch of people still don’t believe it since we’ve heard about Kendricks being on the block a zillion times before. I understand where that skepticism comes from. But it’s truly different this time, folks.
Look at all the linebackers the Eagles have on their roster besides Kendricks: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Corey Nelson, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, Nate Gerry, and Joe Walker. Of those eight combined linebackers, six will make the team, at most. It could only be five.
Hicks and Bradham are obvious locks. Nelson probably belongs in that group as well. Nelson signed with the Eagles on the first day of free agency. He turned down similar money to the Broncos’ offer because he said Philly offered him playing time at the weakside linebacker spot, which is Kendricks’ position. I mean, that right there is a big sign. Beyond that, I also think Kamu is a lock. They really like him as a special teams guy. That’s four. I think the team isn’t just going to give up on 2015 fifth-round pick Gerry, who they knew would take time to transition from safety to linebacker, after one year. That’s five. Worrilow and Walker are hardly guaranteed roster spots, and they’re not as good as Kendricks, but they’re much cheaper and they both can provide depth at middle linebacker. That’s not a spot where Kendricks plays.
The reality is the Eagles only use two linebackers most of the time. We saw this in 2016, when Hicks and Bradham played almost all of the defensive snaps while Kendricks, as the third linebacker, was only at 27%. Even last year, when he was the second best linebacker on the roster after Hicks got hurt, Kendricks still only finished the season with 59% of the snaps. Consider he only played 43% of Philly’s defensive snaps in the biggest game of the season: the Super Bowl. 13 other Eagles players played more defensive snaps than him, including third safety Corey Graham and rookie fourth defensive end Derek Barnett.
Does Kendricks give the Eagles some nice depth at linebacker? Sure. But it’s not ideal for a nice depth guy to be carrying a $7.6 million cap number (seventh highest on the roster) on the bench. Especially when your team really needs more cap room.
A look ahead to the Eagles’ 2019 cap situation shows they are currently projected to be a whopping $30.4 million (!) OVER the cap. And that’s before they sign Carson Wentz to a mega-deal. Not to mention extensions for any other players.
The Eagles simply don’t have the luxury of designating a $7.6 million cap figure to a guy who will, at best, be a role-player this season. Philadelphia reportedly offered Kendricks a pay cut down to $1.5 million to stay but no one can blame for not taking that. It would be hard for him not to do better on the open market.
The Birds can use the $6 million savings they earned by reportedly designating Kendricks as a post-June 1 cut and roll it over into next year. Or they can use it to sign, say, Brandon Graham to an extension now as opposed to later. It’s only going to get pricier the longer they wait.
“But why couldn’t the Eagles get anything for him?!”
On the same day that the Eagles released Kendricks, the Jets acquired a conditional seventh-round pick for freaking Christian Hackenberg. So why couldn’t the Eagles at least get some kind of pick for Kendricks?
The answer is that no one wanted to take on Kendricks’ salary. The fact that no one was willing to trade for him shows that it wasn’t just the Eagles who thought he was overpaid. Rather, all 32 teams are in agreement on this front.
Meanwhile, Hackenberg only has a $1.3 million cap hit this year. And only $397,328 is guaranteed. Jon Gruden has been making a bunch of crazy moves this offseason anyway.
“But what happens when Jordan Hicks gets hurt again?!”
Certainly not an unreasonable concern considering Hicks’ extensive injury history dating back to his college days at Texas.
With that said, there is also a world where Hicks defies the odds and doesn’t get hurt. He did start all 16 games in 2016. Kendricks only played 27% of the snaps that season. Again, that’s just not even close to being worth $7.6 million.
But I’ll play along and assume Hicks won’t be available for the entire 2018 season. So, what happens? Well, the 2017 season proved that Nigel Bradham is capable of filling in for him at the middle linebacker spot. So that’s good. But then who plays alongside him?
It appears the answer to that question is: Corey Nelson. There’s a reason the Eagles signed him to a contract on the first day of free agency. Nelson even told reporters that he was promised playing time in Philly, which is why he turned down a similar contract from his old team, the Broncos.
Now, is Nelson actually any good? Well, he did boast the second lowest passer rating allowed in coverage during the 2016 season. Only Hicks was better in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.
But it’s not like the Eagles are even putting all their eggs in the Nelson basket. They still have 2017 fifth-round pick Nate Gerry, who saw some first team reps during the Eagles’ first OTA practice. Gerry flashed in coverage at times last offseason. The same can be said for Kamu Grugier-Hill, who is now entering his third year as a pro.
It’s entirely possible these players won’t be as good as Kendricks. But it’s not like Kendricks was some reliable difference-maker. Yes, he was good in 2017. But let’s not act like he hasn’t had his fair share of ups and downs throughout an erratic career. I mean, this is ultimately a dude who has produced zero interceptions, one forced fumble, and five sacks in his last 43 games.
The ideal situation is that Hicks and Bradham stay healthy while Nelson (or Gerry, or Kamu) plays about 30% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps this season. If one of the two starters goes down, that’ll suck, but it’ll hardly spell doom for the rest of the year. Philadelphia was playing the likes of Joe Walker, Dannell Ellerbe, and even Malcolm Jenkins at linebacker in 2017. And it wasn’t even really a major issue as they still managed to win the Super Bowl.
“But how could they cut him on the same day they lost Paul Worrilow?!”
The timing here certainly wasn’t the best. The Eagles are obviously thinner at linebacker with Worrilow out for the season and Kendricks gone.
Still, Worrilow wasn’t some MAJOR piece for this team. He wasn’t guaranteed a final roster spot. He was likely competing with Joe Walker for a role as the “backup” MIKE. I put backup in quotes because Bradham is the real backup middle linebacker anyway.
The Eagles still have eight linebackers on the roster after Tuesday’s events: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Corey Nelson, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Joe Walker, LaRoy Reynolds, and Asantay Brown. They’ll probably keep five or six of those guys.
The advantage of releasing Kendricks early in the offseason workout program is that the Eagles can evaluate their young players. If they’re encouraged by what they see, no need to make any changes. If they’re discouraged, they can always go out and grab a veteran linebacker who is still out there on the market. Some notable names include the aforementioned Ellerbe, Navorro Bowman, Jerrell Freeman, Karlos Danbsy, or even Brian Cushing. Not the most inspiring options, of course, but they have the potential to least be serviceable.
The Eagles still won the Super Bowl
Just because the Eagles won the Super Bowl doesn’t mean every move they make from here on out will always be the right one. But try to have some perspective, folks. They’ve been right a lot more often then they’ve been wrong lately.
I remember when people were upset when the Eagles traded Allen Barbre for a mere conditional seventh-round pick and when they included Jordan Matthews as a throw-in in the Ronald Darby trade. Then I remember how those absences didn’t matter at all and the Eagles still won a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean the Kendricks thing will shake out the same way. Just trying to remind you that your worries don’t always come to fruition.
Another thing that gets me about this Kendricks situation is that Howie Roseman seems to unanimously get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to managing the cap, right? Well, you can’t say you always trust him to take care of that and also be upset when he makes an important cost-cutting move like this one.
I harbor no ill-will towards Kendricks. He contributed to the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title and I thank him for that. I wish him well moving forward.
Looking back, it’s been a strange career for the Eagles’ 2012 second-round pick. Kendricks was drafted at a time when Andy Reid had ignored the linebacker position forever. People were finally excited to have a new young guy to get excited about, especially since they were pairing him with DeMeco Ryans.
Kendricks took his lumps as a rookie in 2012 before getting off to an erratic start in 2013. He turned in a really good year in 2014 before then slumping in 2015. He barely played in 2016. Then injuries forced him into playing time in 2017. All the while, Kendricks dealt with the possibility of being traded or cut. He even admitted he wanted the team to release or trade him. It was a weird ride that ended up with him being a Super Bowl champion.
Do you approve of the Eagles’ decision to release Mychal Kendricks?
This poll is closed