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Philadelphia Eagles Release Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson . . . Now What?

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COMMENTARY | The reconstruction project continued in earnest on Monday, with the Philadelphia Eagles releasing veteran defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson.

It seems clearer than ever now that the Birds' defense is headed for some major schematic changes, with Monday's moves appearing to indicate that general manager Howie Roseman and new coach Chip Kelly are looking for the right guys to run the system new defensive coordinator Billy Davis will implement.

Most analysts expect that system to be a hybrid scheme, with elements of both the 4-3 and the 3-4 involved.

Whatever the Eagles move to, they'll do it without Jenkins and Patterson, cuts that, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, will save the team at least $8 million, putting Philly around $33 million under the salary cap for the 2013 season. Add to that whatever they're able to save by either releasing Nnamdi Asomugha or restructuring the $15.5 million he's slated to make this season (keeping in mind that $4 million of his deal is guaranteed either way), and the Birds are set up well to make a splash in free agency.

At this point, they'll need to at least add a couple of pieces off the free-agent market, since the team's overall needs are getting big enough that the NFL Draft alone isn't going to fill them adequately.

There are, however, some potentially great rookie options on defense, including former Oregon standout Dion Jordan, who just had a spectacular day at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Jordan played defensive end for the Ducks under Kelly, but scouts project him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, where his pass-rushing abilities would be well-utilized.

Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd could be another great pick, if he's still available at No. 4, and so could Alabama cornerback DeMarcus Milliner, depending on what the team winds up doing with Asomugha and soon-to-be free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Of course, the Eagles might also be smart to go after an elite-level offensive lineman with that early pick, even with Pro Bowler Jason Peters set to return this season after sitting out 2012 with an Achilles injury.

It'll be interesting to see just how Roseman goes about piecing together the defense for the 2013 season, but the assumption here is that it'll be a combination of free agency, the draft and, possibly, a trade or two. At this stage of the game, my money is on the Eagles putting big stock in a defensive draft pick or two in April.

One thing's clearer than ever, though, after the Eagles released Jenkins and Patterson on Monday -- Philadelphia's defense is going to be an overhauled unit by the time it takes the field for 2013. The way things have gone on that side of the ball in recent years, I'm guessing few fans are against seeing some big changes.

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Adam Sparks has followed the Philadelphia Eagles since the 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2010.

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