The abrupt release of two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin put the entire team on notice. The Eagles (3-8) have lost seven straight games and players shouldn't feel safe about their position, no matter what.
"I guess in a way you kind of expect something to happen," veteran Mike Patterson said Wednesday. "You just feel like the team is trying to make the best choice for us to win games. That's the only thing as a player you look at it."
Babin was cut a day after a 30-22 loss to Carolina on Monday night. He had 5½ sacks in 11 games and his playing time had been reduced in recent weeks. Babin signed a $28 million, five-year contract last offseason after a breakout year in Tennessee in 2010. He had 18 sacks for the Eagles last season, but slumped along with the rest of the defense this year. He was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9).
The news of Babin's release came on the team's day off. Fellow starting defensive end Trent Cole was with Babin when he got the call from coach Andy Reid.
"I was surprised," Cole said. "I've been in the league for eight years now and seen people come and go and it's just business. There's nothing you can really say. That's between him and the franchise and that's it. We're going to miss him. He was part of our D-line; we were tight. We're a close-knit group. He's a great player. He's a very aggressive player you want to have on your team.
"He's going to find another home."
Babin's departure creates more playing time for third-year pro Brandon Graham, a first-round pick in 2010 who has yet to live up to expectations. Rookie Vinny Curry, a second-round pick this year, also should get more snaps. Curry made his season debut against the Panthers after being deactivated the first 10 games.
"I'm excited," Graham said. "I can't wait to go out there and make plays. That's all I'm here for is to make plays and to go out there and do what I do. That's what I'm going to do. Everybody right now is fighting with pride. It's all about pride right now and how we're going to finish these last five games. I know I've got pride and I know my teammates do, so we're going to go out there, going to give it our all and whatever happens, happens."
Releasing Babin is the first of what likely will be a massive roster overhaul. Reid is all-but-gone, too. Unless owner Jeffrey Lurie somehow backs off his preseason directive that another 8-8 season would be "unacceptable," Reid won't return for a 15th year.
That means players will be looking to impress other teams and coaches in hopes of landing jobs somewhere next season. Even Eagles with big contracts - like Babin - are in danger of being let go.
"We're staying positive right now," safety Kurt Coleman said. "We're not worried about the outsiders. We need to continue to get better every day. We need to keep picking each other up and continue to just push each other because right now, it's tough. This isn't an ideal situation that we want to be in, but what we can do is control what we do today. Then tomorrow will take care of itself."
The Eagles play at Dallas (5-6) on Sunday night in their second consecutive nationally televised game. They'll be without two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve with broken ribs.
Quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy still haven't been cleared to practice because of concussions and it's likely they'll also miss the game. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (tailbone) and center Dallas Reynolds (ankle) also missed practice Wednesday.
"Losing DeSean's a big loss," rookie QB Nick Foles said. "He's a heck of a player. He's such a threat out there, but we'll have guys step up. It's football and I know we'll have guys step into that position and do a great job."