Eagles continue shakeup on defense by releasing Trotter

Updated: August 22, 2007, 3:34 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter will be job hunting in the coming days after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday.

A nine-year veteran, Trotter was informed of his status in a meeting with coach Andy Reid. The Eagles suggested that the now-unrestricted free agent consider retirement, but the 30-year-old's preference is to continue playing in the league.

"It's a tough pill to swallow, but everyone gets to this point in their career at some point or another, and now is my time," Trotter said at a news conference. "I'm just thankful that I spent this many years in Philadelphia. I truly believe that if you were to cut me, I'd bleed green."

"Jeremiah is one of my favorite guys," Reid said in a statement Tuesday. "There's no question that this is the toughest part of this job. He and I met about this [Monday] night and it was very emotional for the both of us. 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."

[+] EnlargeJeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins
AP Photo/Matt RourkeTuesday was a day for Jeremiah Trotter to come to grips with the fact he's no longer an Eagle. He gets a hug from safety Brian Dawkins before departing camp.

The departure of Trotter continues a shakeup to Philadelphia's linebacker corps. It is now likely that two-time Pro Bowl player Takeo Spikes, acquired from the Buffalo Bills in a March trade, will take over the middle linebacker spot. Spikes has primarily worked at the weakside position in training camp.

Eagles officials have worked hard to create depth and competition in the linebacker corps, and have a number of young players the coaches want to work into the lineup.

This marks the second time the Eagles have essentially released Trotter. In the spring of 2002, Philadelphia designated him as a franchise player and subsequently rescinded the tag, making him a free agent. Trotter then signed with Washington, where he played two seasons before being released after the 2003 campaign.

In 2004, Trotter contacted Reid, with whom he had parted on shaky terms, to see if he might rejoin the Eagles. He returned to the team that brought him into the league as a third-round pick in the 1998 draft and earned a Pro Bowl berth in his first year back.

His release before roster cuts will give Trotter a chance to catch on with another team -- if he doesn't choose to retire.

"This keeps his options open here where he's not officially retired," Reid said. "If he chooses to go to another team, he can. If he choose to retire, he can."

Trotter said he has not yet made a decision.

"I still believe that I have a couple good years left. But, everyone thinks that when it's time to go," he said with a laugh.

Safety Brian Dawkins, the longest-serving player on the team, called Trotter's departure a blow.

"This one hit me like a ton of bricks," the safety said. "No matter how many years you play, it's always hard when you lose someone like that, that you've come in contact and gotten so close with."

A former Stephen F. Austin star, Trotter is one of just four linebackers in Eagles' history to earn four or more Pro Bowl invitations. He joins Hall of Fame member Chuck Bednarik, Maxie Baughan and Bill Bergey in that select group.

In 131 games with the Eagles (1998-2001, 2004-06) and Redskins (2002-03), Trotter has 1,184 tackles, 12½ sacks and nine interceptions. He has notched 100 or more tackles in seven seasons, and 150-plus tackles five times, and had 202 stops in 1999.

Trotter has three years left on his contract, at base salaries of $2.635 million (2007), $2.72 million (2008) and $3.28 million (2009). His release was not a salary cap move, however, since the Eagles are comfortably under the $109 million ceiling.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.