LES BOWEN, Daily News Staff Writer email@example.com
Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 12:52 AM
MIKE PATTERSON and Cullen Jenkins were loyal soldiers who worked hard and never caused problems, but their general was exiled to Kansas City, and his replacement envisions a different type of army.
The Eagles still haven't confirmed they are moving to a 3-4 front under new coach Chip Kelly. Nonetheless, Monday they began retooling for just that, releasing Patterson and Jenkins, two veteran defensive tackles who aren't hefty enough to be great 3-4 nose tackles and would seem to lack the height and power to be great 3-4 ends. The Eagles seem to have saved about $8 million in 2013 salary-cap money with the moves.
Patterson, who turns 30 in September, was the longest-tenured Eagle, having been drafted in the first round in 2005, 31st overall. He was a steady, reliable performer Andy Reid could plug in and never worry about, year after year, through 115 games and 99 starts. Jenkins, 32, was part of the disastrous free-agent push in 2011 that didn't come close to working out as envisioned, though Jenkins gave the Eagles two respectable seasons.
Patterson said he'd been looking forward to trying to make his case on the practice field; he said he is in excellent shape and at 6-1, has his weight down to 295, which might have made him a little more viable as a 3-4 end.
"They just had a different idea and opinion about it," Patterson said. "But I'm just real appreciative of the time they gave me. I loved it out here; the fans were good and the football team, I've always been good with that, despite even last year. It was just a good atmosphere . . . We had each other's backs, no matter what."
Both players said they intend to continue their careers.
"Probably so," Patterson said, when asked if he thought the Eagles were looking for a different sort of defensive lineman now. "From what I understand, they didn't feel real comfortable with me in a 'three' front. Though I disagree with it . . . it's part of the business . . . I've been here 8 years, and it's been a great time."
Jenkins tweeted: "Thank you Eagles for everything the last 2 years. Thank you fans. Sorry we didn't accomplish anything, but thank you all. Best wishes . . . let's see where the next chapter takes us."
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman released statements praising both players.
"Mike Patterson is one of the toughest players I have ever been around in the National Football League," Roseman said. "He has overcome many obstacles throughout his career, and I have the utmost respect for him because of it. Coach Kelly and I each had great conversations with him today. He is a class act. He gave this organization 8 great seasons of hard work and dedication and we wish him all the best as he continues his career in this league."
Patterson collapsed on the practice field at Lehigh on Aug. 3, 2011. He was found to have a tangle of blood vessels in his brain that needed postseason surgery. He wasn't able to get the medical OK to return to football until the middle of last season, and ended up appearing in only five games.
Roseman said Jenkins, 6-2, 305, who started every game the past two season, totaling 9 1/2 sacks, "has been a very productive player in this league for a long time but we felt it in our team's best interests that we go in a different direction . . . we wish Cullen and his family all the best as he continues his NFL career."
This seems to be shaping up as a good draft for defensive linemen, plus there's free agency starting March 12. Who else from last year's defensive line could leave? Darryl Tapp and Derek Landri are pending unrestricted free agents. They won't be back. Hard to see how Phillip Hunt plays in a 3-4, unless he can drop into coverage as a linebacker.
Who's sure to stay? Fletcher Cox, who seems a near-ideal 3-4 end. Trent Cole, not obviously a natural 3-4 linebacker, but someone whose release would incur $6 million in dead cap money. Brandon Graham. Vinny Curry, because he was a second-round pick last year. Cedric Thornton, probably. Antonio Dixon, the pending starter right now at nose tackle, as the only guy on the roster with that body type. And that might be it.
Elsewhere on the roster, we know Roseman met with Ben Dogra, agent for corner Nnamdi Asomugha, to bring up the subject of Asomugha taking a pay cut from $15 million this season. The Eagles have to pay Asomugha $4 million this year (and incur a $4 million cap hit) whether he plays for them or not, so they're making an effort to fit him in, but sources close to the situation don't seem real hopeful that will work out.
On Twitter: @LesBowen
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