In a move that almost certainly ends the five-year tenure of Corey Simon with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team on Sunday night abruptly rescinded the franchise tag from the standout defensive tackle, a move that immediately makes him an unrestricted free agent.
While surprising, the move is not altogether stunning, given the depth that the Eagles possess at the position and the frustration of some club officials at not being able to get the former first-round draft choice into training camp. Simon had declined to sign the one-year qualifying offer of $5.134 million for a defensive tackle. The Eagles, because of collective bargaining language governing franchise players, could not negotiate a long-term deal with Simon until he signed the one-year tender.
By rescinding the qualifying offer, the Eagles will recoup the $5.134 million in salary cap space that was assigned to Simon. The characteristically cap-healthy Eagles, who usually have one of the best managed caps in the league, did not need the extra money to make any roster moves. Instead, the club simply decided it can survive without Simon, who has started every game in which he appeared for the team.
Rules do not preclude the Eagles, even after Sunday's events, from re-signing Simon. Such a move, though, is highly unlikely. Team officials recently indicated to ESPN.com that they feared Simon might not be in football condition when he eventually arrived.
"We appreciate all that Corey has done for this organization over the last five years," head coach Andy Reid said in a statement released by the club. "With the great amount of depth and talent we have along the defensive line, we chose to give Corey an opportunity to sign with another team."
The Eagles enjoy rare depth at defensive tackle, a position that is historically difficult to fill for any NFL club. In addition to starting veterans Darwin Walker and Hollis Thomas and key backups Sam Rayburn and Paul Grasmanis, the team used its first-round pick in this year's draft to grab former Southern California standout defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who has played well in camp and the preseason.
There have been rumors that Simon would report before the start of the season, and some teammates and even Philadelphia officials have remained in close contact with him as he worked out at his home in Tallahassee, Fla. Clearly, though, the Eagles were not inclined to wait any longer on the five-year veteran.
Philadelphia nearly traded Simon to the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the spring. In fact, the two teams had agreed on compensation, believed to have been second- and third-round picks in the 2005 draft, but Simon could not reach agreement with the Ravens on a long-term contract and the discussions fell apart.
A Pro Bowl performer in 2003, Simon, 28, was the Eagles' first-round choice in the 2000 draft and the former Florida State star has missed only two regular-season games. He has 270 tackles, 35 sacks, 105 quarterback pressures, six forced fumbles, three recoveries and 15 pass deflections.
Given his skill level and experience, and the need by several teams for defensive tackles, there figures to be a relatively healthy demand for Simon.
"The good thing is that Corey is a free man, but the bad thing is the timing," agent Roosevelt Barnes said. "He's young, healthy and an excellent player at a 'need' position, so Corey will find a new home. But if the Eagles knew they were going to take the tag off, they should have done it sooner than this, OK? It makes it look like they waited until the last minute, right before the start of the season, just to screw with him. Maybe they feel like it limits his options. But, hey, he'll be all right."
This marks the second time in three years that the Eagles have rescinded a franchise tag on a player and allowed him to become a free agent. In the midst of a contract dispute in 2002, Philadelphia removed the franchise marker from Jeremiah Trotter, and the standout middle linebacker signed with the Washington Redskins.
After his release by the Redskins last spring, Trotter rejoined the Eagles, became a leader on the team's defense again and was named to the Pro Bowl squad.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.