Why the Eagles waited to release Mychal Kendricks

James Lang - USA Today

The trade speculation is finally over, Mychal Kendricks will be playing for a new team in 2018.

It’s not because he was sent away, however, the Philadelphia Eagles flat out released Kendricks on Tuesday.

It’s not like the Eagles didn’t try to work out a trade for the 28-year-old linebacker. According to NFL insider and Sirius XM host Adam Caplan, his base salary was too steep for an NFL franchise to part ways with an asset.

The 2012 second-rounder Kendricks, who signed a four-year, $29 million extension in 2015, was released with a post June-1 designation. This means that the Birds will save $6 million of Kendricks’ $7.6 million figure in salary cap space instead of $4.4 million had he been cut before June 1st.

That’s potentially $6 million of rollover money to carry into next year, where the Eagles will be about $30 million in the red. Grant it, $20 million of that is contingent on if Philly will pick up Nick Foles’ option, but to be in the negative already means Howie Roseman has work to do.

Numerous key Eagles are set to become free agents after the 2018 campaign, including Brandon Graham, Nelson Agholor, Jay Ajayi, Ronald Darby and Jordan Hicks. Obviously not every one will be able to be retained, but one that many expect will be is Graham. Kendricks’ release may allow that to happen.

Kendricks’ departure does hurt the Eagles’ depth, especially if Hicks gets hurt again, but considering their base defense is nickel and two linebackers are preferred instead of three most of the time, it’s not a substantial loss. And that takes into account that Paul Worrilow tore his ACL during the first day of OTAs Tuesday.

The Mike and Sam linebackers will be filled by Hicks and Nigel Bradham, with free agent pickup Corey Nelson slotted as Kencricks’ replacement at Will linebacker. Nate Gerry and Joe Walker are next on the depth chart. Let’s also remember that Malcolm Jenkins will be on the field as another linebacker when the Birds go to their three-safety looks.

One last thing, Kendricks comes off arguably the greatest year of his career, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had a lot to do with that. Kendricks was playing about 40 percent of the time prior to Hicks’ injury in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. It was during that time when Schwartz was catering to his strengths, which are using his speed, quickness and instincts by blitzing and ranging sideline to sideline. It’s a huge reason why Pro Football Focus ranked him as their No. 9 linebacker last season.

Kendricks isn’t as productive in coverage, a key component in Schwartz’s defense, especially zone. That weakness was on display when he began to play 80-90 percent of the time every week in Hicks’ absence. Schwartz’s scheme also doesn’t ask his linebackers to blitz much.

So was it really worth to pay Kendricks $7.6 million to play about 40 percent of the time?

Not really.

Where does Kendricks go from here? He’s best suited as a 3-4 inside linebacker where his timing and instincts in blitzing and speed as a sideline-to-sideline ranger can be best utilized. The Pittsburgh Steelers immediately come to mind. The Green Bay Packers are another team.

We’ll find out where Kendricks ends up soon, he won’t be on the market long.

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