One of the big free agent signings by the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2011 season was defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who was stolen away from the world champion Green Bay Packers.
Jenkins turned in a pretty impressive season for the Eagles, starting all 16 games and collecting 5.5 sacks and 33 tackles.
According to Pro Football Focus, he rated as the fourth best defensive player on the Eagles. He also rated as the seventh best defensive tackle in the NFL, and his 25 quarterback pressures ranked third among DTs.
The 30-year old defensive tackle has four years remaining on a five-year, $25 million deal, but rumors have circulated that the Packers want Jenkins back in 2012. After an extremely disappointing 8-8 season for the Eagles, you’d have to think that Jenkins wouldn’t mind rejoining Green Bay, who won 15 games in 2011 and should remain a legitimate Super Bowl contender for years to come. That can’t be said about the Eagles, who will likely contend for a postseason berth in 2012 but aren’t regarded as one of the NFL’s top teams.
A report from NFLdraftupdate stated that the Eagles would save approximately $7.75 million by cutting Jenkins, who is also due a roster bonus of $5 million on March 13th.
The move would make sense too. Although Jenkins had a good season and is a leader in the clubhouse and respected by teammates and coaches, the Eagles have a lot of depth at defensive tackle.
Mike Patterson started alongside Jenkins last year and has remained a starter since he was selected in the first round in 2005. Antonio Dixon is a great run stopper, but he missed the last 12 games of the 2011 season with a torn triceps. He should return next season in great shape and could start if Jenkins leaves.
Veteran Derek Landri was cut in preseason but was brought back by the Eagles in midseason. He ended the season as the team’s third best defensive player, according to Pro Football Focus, despite playing in about half the snaps. In fact, he rated as the fourth best defensive tackle in the NFL. No NFL player rated as well with as few plays (355) as Landri. Even if his 2011 season was somewhat of a fluke, he should remain a key backup next season, assuming he is re-signed this offseason.
And of course, the Eagles will probably draft a defensive tackle, likely as high as the second or third round. They always do, and it would make sense, especially if Jenkins leaves.
Jenkins had a great season and was a key member of the defense. But the defensive line was one of the strengths of the team, and if cutting Jenkins could clear up some money to sign some free agents, I’d support the decision.
Then again, the Eagles did sign Jenkins to a five-year deal and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to cut him one year into the deal. After all, he was one of just two successful free agent signings by the Eagles this offseason (the other being Jason Babin).
I predict he will be cut though. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Eagles went on another free agent spending spree and they’ll need money to do so.