The Philadelphia Eagles announced Monday that they have released defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who was one of the significant free agents they signed in their famous 2011 offseason spending spree. Jenkins was set to cost $5.5 million against the salary cap this year and leaves just $1.5 million in "dead money," so he clears some room for the Eagles under the cap. But the Eagles were already projected to be under the cap, so the move is likely about not wanting to pay a 32-year-old defensive lineman that much money at a time when a new coach and defensive coordinator are coming in and changing the plan drastically on defense.
It is also not likely the last such move the Eagles will make. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was thought to be the prize of that year's free-agent class, is carrying a huge cap number for 2013 after two mostly disappointing seasons in Philadelphia. If he doesn't agree to a pay cut, Asomugha is likely to be released as well. Whether the Eagles need cap room or not, the Jenkins move shows they're willing to make veteran cuts for other reasons.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was acquired via trade that same offseason, is an unrestricted free agent, and it remains to be seen whether the Eagles will try to bring him back. It's unlikely they'll get themselves into a bidding war to keep him if he hits the open market.
Perhaps the least heralded of the 2011 acquisitions has been the best. Guard Evan Mathis, who signed a new free-agent contract with the Eagles last offseason after an superb first season in Philadelphia, was an afterthought amid the big signings and trades in August of '11, but it's entirely possible that when the dust settles on this offseason's moves he'll be the only one left standing. Defensive end Jason Babin was released during the 2012 season.
Jenkins likely could have made the switch from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 defensive end in the scheme the Eagles appear to be installing. He had experience playing in a 3-4 in Green Bay prior to his time in Philadelphia. But the Eagles have other options for those spots, including Mike Patterson and 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox, and likely decided Jenkins was a luxury.
Because I know people will ask, yes, I think Jenkins is still a good player who can help someone. And I think he'd be a fine fit for the New York Giants or the Dallas Cowboys, who run 4-3 defenses and could use someone of Jenkins' versatility and pass-rush ability. Whether those teams will agree with me remains to be seen, but, yes, I think he could help either of them.
UPDATE (4:32 pm ET): The Eagles announced later Monday that they also have released Patterson, which saves another $3 million in cap room and obviously eliminates him as a replacement option for Jenkins. The Eagles' starting defensive line at this point projects to be Cox, Cedric Thornton and Antonio Dixon, though they're likely to look for upgrades in free agency and in the draft.