In what can certainly be perceived as a shot across the bow, the Eagles released defensive end Jason Babin Tuesday.
“We appreciate everything that Jason has given this team over the last couple of years,” said Andy Reid in a statement. “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 younger guys in the defensive line rotation.”
Though there’s obviously much more to it than that.
It has been a rather dramatic fall for the 32-year-old after an equally sharp ascent. Teamed with Jim Washburn in Tennessee in 2010, Babin racked up 12 1/2 sacks after posting no more than five sacks in a season over his first six years in the NFL. He followed his defensive line coach to Philadelphia and had 18 sacks last year, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.
He had 5 1/2 sacks this season through 11 games. There is much more to the game and the position than sacks, of course, and one criticism of Babin is that he would sell out and neglect gap and run responsibility in the name of getting to the quarterback. He appeared to be out of position a good bit in Monday’s game against the Panthers.
Babin signed a five-year, $27 million deal in 2011 and was making a base salary of $5 million this season. The deal included just a $1 million signing bonus. According to multiple reports the Eagles do not owe Babin anything, as termination pay is a one-time benefit, and Babin collected when he was cut by Seattle.
With plenty of bodies at defensive end, the Eagles were going to part with Babin anyway this offseason in all likelihood. As the Reid statement suggests, this is a way to get more of the young guys, like Vinny Curry, some more playing time down the stretch.
However, it can also serve as a sign that nobody’s job is safe and that there will be consequences if a certain level of play is not reached.
Things have not been completely harmonious on the defensive front during this seven-game slide. According to a source, a frustrated Trent Cole walked out during a defensive line meeting recently.
Behind the Wide-9, the defense compiled 50 sacks a year ago. This season they have just 18 — the same number Babin got all by himself last year.
Some players were apparently rubbed the wrong way by the Washburn-Babin relationship, feeling that he was treated a bit differently than the rest of them. Babin is now gone. And it’s very possible Washburn will be as well in the near future