The Eagles continued to reshape their roster and clear salary-cap space Tuesday by determining that they will release outside linebacker Trent Cole after 10 years with the team and jettisoning veteran cornerback Cary Williams after two seasons in Philadelphia.
The moves, coupled with the trade of running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo, left the Eagles with about $50 million in salary-cap space to use in free agency, which begins March 10. The Eagles did not discuss the moves on Tuesday night.
The Eagles have not formally released Cole, and the team had no comment on the move. But a source confirmed to The Inquirer that Cole will be released, after the team and Cole could not come to terms on a restructured contract. The news was first reported by Comcast SportsNet.
"Taking trip to new hunting grounds that I'll have chance at a trophy of a lifetime!" Cole wrote on Twitter after news broke. Later he posted: "No respect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Caption that!"
The eventual transaction will spell the end of one of the most storied careers of any pass rusher in Eagles history. A fifth-round pick in 2005, Cole made two Pro Bowls and amassed 851/2 sacks. Only Reggie White (124) has recorded more sacks in an Eagles uniform.
Cole, 32, remained with the team even when the defense transitioned from a 4-3 to a 3-4 after Chip Kelly was hired in 2013. It was a major adjustment for Cole, who accepted the change and worked to adapt to his new position. He finished with 61/2 sacks last season, while playing 69 percent of the defensive snaps.
But his salary was going to be especially burdensome this season at $10.9 million, with a cap hit of $11.625 million. By releasing Cole, the Eagles will save $8.425 million in salary-cap space.
Williams, 30, was set to earn $6.5 million next season and counted $8.2 million against the salary cap. The Eagles will absorb $1.67 of that cap number.
In an interview with WPEN-FM (97.5), Williams said the team had not approached him about restructuring his contract.
"I wasn't aware of anything [ahead of time], but when you make so much money, it is what it is," Williams said. "I only spoke with Chip, and he told me he wanted to go in a different direction. So I could only respect that and move on."
Williams' exit means the Eagles do not have either of last year's starting cornerbacks under contract for next season because Bradley Fletcher is a pending free agent. Nolan Carroll, Brandon Boykin, and Jaylen Watkins are the only cornerbacks under contract in 2015. The team is expected to be aggressive in trying to fill the position in free agency and the draft.
Williams signed with the Eagles in 2013, after winning the Super Bowl in Baltimore. He was the team's top cornerback during the last two seasons, never missing a start. He was also the most consistent player in a secondary that struggled in both seasons.
Williams started 32 regular-season games and totaled 111 tackles, five interceptions, and 25 passes defended.
In Williams' first spring with the team, he missed part of the offseason program for personal and family reasons. Those include his daughter's dance recital, dental work, and building a new home - he explained he needed to make sure his sconces were picked out, a description that followed him during his Eagles career.
Williams was outspoken throughout much of his time, too, but he spoke with more experience than most players in the locker room. Williams was critical of the New England Patriots, a bitter rival when he played for the Ravens, leading up to last summer's joint practices. He also expressed frustration about how much Kelly was working the Eagles in practice last September.
Williams said that Kelly did not indicate the release was related to any of his past comments. Williams spoke highly of the organization in the radio interview.
"I'm not disappointed about anything that went on in Philadelphia," Williams said. "I had a great time there, I enjoyed the fans, I enjoyed my teammates. Now I'm moving on. It's a part of the National Football League."