(Philadelphia, PA) — In a move that was a surprise to some Eagles fans, the Philadelphia Eagles released former 4-time Pro Bowl Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (Drafted in ’98 from Stephen F. Austin in 3rd Rd) on Tuesday. The releasing of Trotter ended the tough outspoken linebacker’s time with a team that he sometimes had a hot and cold relationship with. Coach Andy Reid informed Trotter of his decision Monday night during an emotional meeting. And said of Trotter, “Jeremiah and I have been together for many years and he’s played a vital role in helping this team win a lot of football games”. Reid added “He developed himself into a Pro Bowl middle linebacker through a lot of hard work and desire. In my mind, he will always be a Philadelphia Eagle and I’m sure he feels the same way.”
I could act like I am surprised by the release, but in viewing Trotter at training camp earlier in this month, I could see that he was sometimes laboring. He had made the commitment to come back in 2007 in better shape after he was thoroughly outclassed in the NFC Divisional game versus the Saints, but a player evaluator who I respect and who was also at training camp with me on the sidelines gave the same evaluation. He remarked to me that day, “Trotter just doesn’t have the wheels anymore”. Trotter’s best season was in his first year as a starter in 1999 when he made the Pro Bowl and set a career high with 202 tackles.
I believe Trotter’s age (30), knees (had knee problems going back to college), the fact that he “wasn’t their guy” (Ray Rhodes Draftee and Eagles liked 1999 2nd rd pick Barry Gardner better), his candor (openly questioned the organization’s treatment of T.O), and the emergence of other players (Free Agent pickup Takeo Spikes and 2007 3rd Round Draft Pick Stewart Bradley) were all factors in the Eagles decision. The releasing today was not the first time that Trotter and the Eagles parted ways, because in 2001 the two sides had a very acrimonious parting after the Eagles placed the “franchise” tag on Trotter and then the player angrily complained about it to the point the team removed the tag and released him. Trotter didn’t hold back firing many parting shots out of the door. He resurfaced in Washington and after two unsuccessful years, the Redskins cut ties with him. Everything seemed forgotten by the Eagles in 2004 when Trotter tucked his tail and came back to the team and Andy Reid seeing that his prized 2nd Round pick Barry Gardner could not get it done, kissed and made up with Trotter signing a one-year contract at the veteran minimum. Of course the Eagles still wanted to show Trotter who was boss by having him backup underachiever Mark Simoneau in the pre-season and training camp until they saw that they could no longer leave the Pro Bowler on the bench. Trotter miraculously went from special teams to the Pro Bowl and Eagles came within 3 points of winning Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots. The good feelings did not last for long as the Eagles had a very public divorce with wide receiver Terrell Owens in 2005 and Trotter was one of the few players that openly supported Owens. After the jettisoning of Owens, Trotter seemed to always have a bull-eye on his play.
In 2006, despite the Eagles lightness at the defensive tackle position, you constantly heard whispers that the team’s inability to stop the run (allowed an average of 136 yards per game) was directly linked to Trotter at middle linebacker. Trotter’s and the defense’s woes came bubbling to the surface in the playoffs when the Saints dominated the Eagles running for over 200 yards and having a 10 minute edge in time of possession. Trotter in particularly had a tough time in coverage allowing Saints TE Billy Miller to look like Tony Gonzalez. The Eagles knew that their defense needed to change and they calculated that the linebacking play of Matt McCoy, Jeremiah Trotter, and Dhani Jones was going to be the area that they concentrated on re-working in the off-season. Jones was cut, McCoy was relegated to a backup role and is on the bubble to make the team, and now Trotter (112 TKLS, 0 Sacks, and 1 INT in ’06) has been released.
The Eagles will move forward with their new revamped linebacking unit with youngsters Omar Gaither (5th Rd Pick in ’06), Stewart Bradley, Chris Gcong (3rd Rd pick in ’06), and veteran Takeo Spikes leading the way. Expect Bradley and Gaither to compete for the open middle linebacker spot.
Look for Trotter to get some looks from the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, and Tampa Buccaneers.