PHILADELPHIA -- The Freak show is over in Philadelphia.
After four mostly disappointing and injury-plagued seasons where he only showed glimpses of his feared pass rushing ability, the Eagles released defensive end Jevon Kearse on Thursday.
Kearse was in the middle of a $66 million, eight-year deal signed in 2004 that made him at the time the highest-paid defensive end in NFL history.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection failed to live up the lofty expectations set when he signed. His ineffective performance last year led to reduced playing time and finally landed him on the sideline, despite his big salary. Juqua Thomas replaced Kearse in the starting lineup.
Kearse recorded only 3½ sacks in 14 games last season after missing most of the 2006 season with a knee injury. The move had been expected since the end of the season and comes a day before the NFL free-agent signing period begins.
Kearse, nicknamed "The Freak," played in 45 regular season games for the Eagles and recorded 133 tackles and 22 sacks. He was due to earn $6.46 million next season.
"We tried to work out a restructure with the Eagles and it didn't work out," Drew Rosenhaus said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He had a wonderful career there."
Rosenhaus did not immediately return a message on Thursday.
Early in his career with Tennessee, Kearse was one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers. He had 36 sacks in his first three season and earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1999.
"I'm a freak of nature," Kearse said when he signed with the Eagles. "I do a lot of things ordinary people wouldn't be able to do. As far as performance and playing my position, I'm a freak out there."
Kearse twice earned All-Pro honors, but injuries started to catch up soon after his early success. Kearse missed 12 games with a broken bone in his left foot in 2002, sprained the same foot in 2003 and missed nearly three games.
Kearse was off to fantastic start in 2006 with the Eagles, recording 3½ sacks in the first two games. But he sprained multiple ligaments in his left knee during Philadelphia's overtime loss to the New York Giants in Week 2.
Kearse never bounced back last year.
"I don't think we realize how bad that was," Eagles coach Andy Reid said late in the season. "We do as a team, here, but he's battled through that thing and that's tough."
The additions of Kearse and Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens were enough to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl after three straight losses in the NFC title game. Owens' relationship with the Eagles and quarterback Donovan McNabb collapsed and he was kicked off the team in 2005.
With Kearse gone, the Eagles will surely target a defensive end through free agency or the draft. The Eagles have little depth after Thomas and Pro Bowl end Trent Cole. The Eagles are high on second-year DE Victor Abiamiri, who could start next season opposite Cole.