The Philadelphia Eagles cut DE Jason Babin, furthering a reluctant youth movement that had been, to this point, mostly brought on by injuries.
Babin, 32, has been a Pro Bowler for each of the past two seasons and recorded 18 sacks in 2011 for the Eagles, thriving as a pass rusher in the wide-nine defensive scheme; he fell to 5.5 sacks through the first 11 games of 2012. His release should provide more playing time for third-year end Brandon Graham and rookie Vinny Curry -- the latter of the two made his NFL debut on Monday night against Carolina after being inactive for Philadelphia's first 10 games.
"By releasing (Babin) today, this gives us an opportunity to give more playing time to some of the younger guys in the rotation," Andy Reid said Tuesday, according to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News.
Claiming Babin off waivers would put a team on the hook for the remainder of the $5.575 million he's owed this year (approximately $1.65 million), plus $4.225 in 2013 and $6 million in 2014 and '15. The Bengals and Lions both employ the wide-nine look under which Babin thrived, but he may find other interested parties out there.
The 3-8 Eagles, meanwhile, are headed full bore into preparations for the 2013 season.
It's likely no coincidence that Curry's arrival on the game roster coincided with Babin's eventual release. The Eagles used a second-round pick on Curry back in April, then made him a healthy scratch en route to a 3-7 start. Reid maintained all along that Curry was progressing, but he was stuck behind Trent Cole, Babin, Darryl Tapp and Graham at a crowded defensive end spot.
With Babin out of the picture, Curry should at least stay active for the Eagles' remaining five games and may wind up splitting time with Graham opposite Cole -- Graham saw 31 snaps Monday to Curry's 22; Babin played 41.
Even with Graham and Curry waiting in the wings, though, Babin's departure comes as a surprise. The Eagles locked up Cole this offseason through 2017, and they appeared to be set at the defensive end position for the immediate future.
Instead, Cole will now go about his business while the Eagles try to figure out if any of their other DE options can be his sidekick in the coming seasons.