Less than a year after asking to be traded out of Philadelphia, it looks like Mychal Kendricks is finally going to get his wish to leave.
The Eagles announced on Tuesday that they've decided to cut ties with Kendricks, who started a total of 13 games for the team last season. According to ESPN.com, Kendricks has been released with a post-June 1 designation in a move that will free up $6 million in cap space for the team come June 2. The 2012 second-round pick was headed into the fourth season of a five-year, $29 million extension that he signed in 2015.
The biggest reason the move is a surprise is because the Eagles currently have some issues at linebacker. Not only is Jordan Hicks coming off an Achilles injury that he suffered last season, but newly signed Paul Worrilow will likely miss the 2018 season after tearing his ACL on Tuesday.
At this point in the offseason, it's not often that a team is willing to part ways with such a vital part of their defense, but that's the catch here: Kendricks wasn't exactly a vital part of the team's defense, despite the amount of playing time he received in 2017.
As a matter of fact, the only reason Kendricks saw any extensive playing time last season was because the Eagles lost Hicks to that Achilles injury after just seven games. With Hicks out, Kendricks basically took his spot for the rest of the year and had an impressive year, tallying two sacks, 77 tackles and an impressive six pass breakups.
Despite those numbers, it was starting to become pretty clear this offseason that the Eagles weren't really interested in keeping Kendricks or his $7.6 million cap hit for 2018. Not only did the Eagles re-sign Nigel Bradham in March, but they also added Broncos linebacker Corey Nelson, which made Kendricks expendable.
Although Kendricks had been a starter in Philadelphia for his entire six-year career, his playing time took a drastic dip in 2016 after Jim Schwartz was brought on as defensive coordinator. During Schwartz's first year on the job, Kendricks only played a total of 26.7 of the team's defensive snaps, which was a big reason why he ended up requesting a trade after the 2016 season.
The one odd thing about this move is that the Eagles weren't able to trade him, and it seems there's a reason for that. Apparently, most teams out there just weren't interested in paying his $5.85 million base salary for 2018. Since the Eagles had to cut Kendricks, the 27-year-old is now going to hit free agency for the first time in his NFL career.
So where will Kendricks end up?
Let's take a look at nine possibilities.
1. New York Giants
When it comes to linebackers, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has already made one big move this offseason, and that came back in March when the Giants pulled off a trade with the Rams that sent Alec Ogletree to New York. If Gettleman wants to completely revamp the unit, signing Kendricks would make a lot of sense. Not only would he be a instant upgrade for the team, but it would also give Kendricks a chance for some revenge on the Eagles. Kendricks might like that idea, which is why we have New York at the top of the list. Another factor helping the Giants is that the team's current linebackers coach, Bill McGovern, was Kendricks' position coach for three seasons in Philadelphia (2013-15).
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
If Kendricks is smart, he won't leave the state of Pennsylvania when making his first free agency visit and that's because Pittsburgh should be at the top of his list (even if they're not on the top of our list). Since losing Ryan Shazier last season, the Steelers haven't really found an adequate replacement. As a matter of fact, you could easily argue that Kendricks would instantly become the best inside linebacker on the Steelers' roster if they were to sign him, which is exactly why they should. The one big potential problem here is money. If Kendricks is looking for a big pay day, that's going to be tough for the Steelers to pull off since they currently only have about $6 million in cap space.
3. Indianapolis Colts
If the Kendricks sweepstakes turns into a bidding war, Indy should just go ahead and write him a blank check. The Colts have almost no depth at linebacker. As a matter of fact, things are so bad that linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi recently said his unit was "starting from scratch." If you're going to start from scratch, then it would make a lot of sense to bring in a veteran who would be an instant impact player both on and off the field. Not to mention, there's a big connection here: Eagles coach Frank Reich spent two seasons in Philly, so he knows exactly what Kendricks is capable of.
4. New England Patriots
If a veteran free agent becomes available at this point in the offseason, media members are basically required to put the Patriots on any list of potential landing spots, which is why we have them in the fourth spot here. That being said, Kendricks could make some sense here. With Dont'a Hightower coming off a season where he only played in five games due to a pec injury, it might be smart of the Patriots to bring in some potential insurance, just in case anything goes wrong with Hightower's rehab. Hightower has had a tough time staying healthy over the past few years, missing a total of 22 games since 2014
5. Atlanta Falcons
After spending a third-round pick on Duke Riley in 2017, it's not yet clear how the Falcons feel about their second-year linebacker, who started six games last season. If they were to add Kendricks, Riley would almost certainly be headed to the bench, which might impede his development. Of course, if the Falcons feel like they're in the middle of their Super Bowl window -- and that's exactly how they should feel -- then adding Kendricks would be a smart move. The Falcons reportedly tried to trade for Kendricks during the 2017 offseason after he originally made his trade demands.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
7. Oakland Raiders
8. Kansas City Chiefs
If you look at the Chargers defense, their secondary and their defensive line are both stacked. However, the one unit that's not exactly stacked is the team's linebackers.
The Raiders could also use some help at linebacker, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Kendricks sign with either team, mainly because it would bring him back home to the West Coast. Kendricks went to high school in Fresno before attending college at Berkeley.
As for the Chiefs, if anyone knows just how good Kendricks can be in the right scheme, it's Andy Reid. Remember, Reid is the one who brought Kendricks into the NFL back in 2012, when he selected the former Cal linebacker with a second-round pick in the draft. The Chiefs have already signed one linebacker this offseason (Anthony Hitchens), but despite that, they could still stand to beef up their depth at the position.
Wild Card: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings don't necessarily need Kendricks, but they might be open to signing him if he's willing to sign a contract that's slightly below market value. The reason Kendricks might be willing to do that is because it would give him a chance to play on the same defense as his brother, Eric, who's currently a linebacker for the Vikings. It would also give him a chance to potentially win the Super Bowl for the second straight year.