When Brent Celek joined the Eagles in 2007, Andy Reid was still head coach, Donovan McNabb was quarterback, Brian Westbrook was running back and Brian Dawkins was leading the defense. He spent time playing for Reid, Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson.
In his 11th year, he helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl. That’ll be his last game in the organization — the Eagles plan to release Celek.
How beloved was Celek? Eagles owner Jeffrey released a statement about the decision to waive Celek on Tuesday afternoon.
“Brent Celek defines what it means to be a Philadelphia Eagle. His dedication to his profession and this organization is unmatched and he will go down as one of the best tight ends in franchise history. Brent embodied the City of Philadelphia’s temperament and character with his toughness and grit. He has been a huge part of everything we have been building over the last decade and it is only fitting that he was able to help us win our first Super Bowl last season. Unfortunately, in this business we are forced to make difficult decisions, especially this time of the year. This one is as tough as they come, but in our eyes, Brent will always be an Eagle.”
The Celek decision comes on the heels of tight end Trey Burton reportedly agreeing to terms on a four-year contract with the Chicago Bears.
Here are six observations about the Eagles’ turnover at tight end.
NFL free agency will officially begin on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
1. It was a cap-clearing move. Releasing Celek saves the Eagles $4 million heading into free agency. Even after the Torrey Smith trade and restructuring of Lane Johnson’s contract, the Eagles were still projected to be over the cap by about $2 million. The Eagles might still want to re-sign cornerback Patrick Robinson before free agency, reportedly will sign defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and linebacker Corey Nelson, might want to re-sign linebacker Nigel Bradham and will need to sign their own draft picks after next month’s draft. That’s not to mention if general manager Howie Roseman intends on signing any other free agents. The point — the Eagles still needed to clear some cap, and still will need to clear some more.
2. The Eagles will miss Celek. Beyond his valuable blocking skills — the Eagles will need to replace that somehow — Celek is a loss for his locker room presence. The 11-year pro was one of the most popular players around the team and has been vital in helping along Zach Ertz’s development into one of the league’s best tight ends.
3. The loss of Trey Burton was not surprising. Burton was expected to be seeking a bigger, longer contract, which the Eagles simply weren’t going to pursue with their cap situation. He was a valuable weapon — see: Philly Special — and will be missed as an alternative receiving option to Ertz.
4. The Eagles will need to sign and/or draft a tight end … or two. As mentioned, the Eagles will need to replace Celek’s blocking as well as filling Burton’s role as an offensive weapon. Ideally, both of those things could come in the form of one player via one of the Eagles’ mid-round draft picks. Or, maybe, internally …
5. Billy Brown might be in line for playing time. Brown signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Shepherd University last year, and he spent the season on the practice squad. He signed a futures contract with the Eagles last month. At 6-4 and 241 pounds, if he has a good off-season, he’s a candidate to make the active roster in 2018.
6. The Eagles aren’t done yet. As mentioned, the Eagles will still need to clear more cap space, especially if they desire a new contract for Patrick Robinson. The obvious candidates to keep an eye on include quarterback Nick Foles (via trade), defensive end Vinny Curry (trade or release), cornerback Ronald Darby (trade) and offensive lineman Jason Peters (release/contract restructuring).