Eagles Make the Necessary Move with Ryans
(973espn.com) — A toxic combination of age, injuries and money spelled the end of DeMeco Ryans' career in Philadelphia Wednesday as the Eagles made what was all but inevitable official by releasing the veteran linebacker.
"Sometimes there are hard decisions," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said at the NFL's Scouting Combine when addressing the release of Ryans. "Sometimes you have to move on from certain players. I love everything he’s stood for in the organization. He’s a great person, a great human being. But sometimes you just have to cut those ties and move on."
The 31-year-old Ryans' base salary of $2.5 million was set to become guaranteed on March 11 and by releasing him the Eagles will save $3.5 million in cap space toward the 2016 ceiling. With second-year man Jordan Hicks projected to take over the middle of Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense, a $4.5M million cap hit is simply too much for a backup linebacker who can't really help you on special teams so Philadelphia chose $1M in dead money instead.
There is one part of Ryans' makeup that the Eagles will miss desperately, though, and that's the leadership he provided to the locker room. Dubbed "Mufasa" by ex-coach Chip Kelly, Ryans was always pro's pro win or lose.
That said, this game is about results on the field and Ryans looked like he had little left physically last season as a part-time player. Returning from a second ruptured Achilles tendon injury that cost him the second half of the 2014 season, Ryans seemed to lack his typical explosion while playing in exactly 50 percent of the team's snaps (607) in a tortured rotation inside with Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso and Hicks.
The former two-time Pro Bowl selection in Houston managed 68 tackles with an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and of the 97 linebackers rated by Pro Football Focus last season, Ryans finished No. 75 while struggling mightily in run defense.
Over his five years in Philadelphia, Ryans amassed 334 tackles, five interceptions, five sacks and two fumble recoveries in 54 games.
Recently the Eagles re-signed Najee Goode, a special teams standout, as Hicks' potential backup in the middle and expect to move both Kendricks and Alonso outside.
“What DeMeco Ryans has done for our organization, the class he brought, day-in and day-out, I just wish him the best as he goes forward with his career, and really, in life,” Eagles executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen