Defensive end Jason Babin had 18 sacks for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. More sacks than anyone in the league but DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen. He was a critical part of an Eagles pass rush that tied for the league lead in sacks and entered the 2012 season expecting to pressure opposing quarterbacks even more than it had last year.
But nothing has gone right for the Eagles this year, including the pass rush. And with the Eagles on a seven-game losing streak and 3-8 for the season, the team announced Tuesday afternoon that it has released Babin.
"We appreciate everything that Jason has given this team over the last couple of years," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a team news release. "We wish him all the best as he continues his career. By releasing him today, this gives us an opportunity to give more playing time to some of the younger guys in the defensive line rotation."
The Eagles do have a lot of defensive ends, and second-round pick Vinny Curry was active Monday night for the first time all year. If they plan to give more playing time to Curry, Brandon Graham and others moving forward, that time was likely to come at the expense of Babin, who has just six sacks so far this year. And it was unlikely that Babin would be back in Philadelphia next season. But it's still a surprise to see them cut him with five games left in the season.
Babin will be available on waivers to be claimed by any NFL team, and my guess is he's unlikely to clear. Teams are always on the hunt for pass-rushers, and a 4-3 defensive end guy who's healthy and coming off an 18-sack season is sure to find employment somewhere. If he does clear waivers, I imagine he'll sign somewhere soon.
I wouldn't be 100 percent sure, however, that whoever picks Babin up should expect to get the same kind of production he delivered for defensive line coach Jim Washburn in 2011 and in 2010, when he had 12.5 sacks while he and Washburn were together in Tennessee. On multiple occasions, Babin has spoken openly about the reason he and Washburn clicked so well -- namely, that Washburn identified the thing Babin does best and encouraged him to focus exclusively on that. If there's a team out there that needs a defensive end who will charge hard after the passer on every play but isn't likely to play the run well or do much besides sell out for sacks, Babin will be a fit. Again, my guess is that there is more than one team looking for someone who can do that one thing he does as well as he does it.