The cruel reality of the National Football League is that injuries won’t put your job on hold for you, no matter how much of a veteran you are.
That’s the dilemma Mike Patterson may be facing right now. The Philadelphia Eagles’ first-round pick from 2005 and the longest-tenured player on the team (tied with Trent Cole and Todd Herremans) was diagnosed with a brain condition that required surgery a year ago.
Patterson ended up playing 15 of 16 games, starting all of them, and registering very fine numbers—2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and 26 tackles. He’s been extremely consistent since the Eagles drafted him, missing just two games in seven seasons.
He headed into this offseason expected to play in 2012, but maybe the Eagles knew something about his condition because they spent a first-round pick on defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Andy Reid loves defensive linemen like he loves his cheeseburgers, having spent six first-round picks on defensive linemen since 2000.
And Patterson may miss the entire season as he recovers from offseason brain surgery—which is not something you hear every day for NFL players. Patterson also took a pay cut, and while that may sound cruel, it’s football for you.
And it may signal that he is on his way out in Philly.
The Eagles have a top-notch defensive line this year, regardless of the fact that they’ve collected just seven sacks. They’ve constantly been in the face of the opposing quarterbacks, pressuring them and that’s had a huge impact on all three wins.
Fletcher Cox has been a vital part of that defensive line rotation, as the Eagles have been able to put him right in the mix even though he’s played just four NFL games. Cox introduced himself to Eli Manning, registering a quarterback hit, a quarterback pressure, and three tackles in just 43 snaps.
Cox has seen extensive playing time in all four contests this year, and his workload will only increase as he shows the coaching staff that he can play at a high level. The Eagles have Derek Landri signed to a very team-friendly one-year deal and Cullen Jenkins was a highly sought-after free agent when the Eagles signed him before 2011.
Patterson’s contract is supposed to pay him $3 million next year, which isn’t too shabby at all for a player of his ability. But those figures go up to $3.75 million in 2014, $5 million in 2015, and $6.35 million against the cap by 2016.
Cox will assuredly start over Patterson by next year and the Eagles likely won’t want to pay that much money to Patterson simply to be a backup.