Eagles linebacker Trent Cole was a late bloomer in Bill Davis' new 3-4 scheme but finished with a team leading eight sacks. However, the Eagles may look to upgrade the outside linebacker position this offseason.
Trent Cole was one of the Eagles steadier defenders in 2013 but his future with the team may very well be in doubt as Bill Davis' overhaul takes footing in it's second-year.
In the first year of making the position switch from defensive end to outside linebacker, Cole had a widely productive season, finishing as the Eagles team leader with eight sacks to go with 56 tackles. Yet as the team continues to rebuild that side of the ball, there are questions about as to whether or not the nine-year veteran will return in 2014.
Cole, 31 is certainly a mainstay in the Eagles locker room as one of the true leaders of a defense that has lacked exactly that in recent years.
There may not be a player on the entire roster who benefited more from Chip Kelly's sports science methodology than Cole.
"As far as my situation goes," Cole said in November. "The transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, I'm getting more comfortable. My pace is speeding up and I'm playing fast."
Unlike recent years when Cole's production dipped as the season wore on, the veteran Cole repeatedly insisted that he never felt stronger even as the calender turned to December. His production echoed that sentiment.
All eight of Cole's sacks came in November and later, and he added one against the New Orleans Saints in the wild card round of the NFC playoffs as well.
However, while the results were certainly worth the wait as Cole evolved to a true pass rushing outside linebacker, the position is certainly on the list of areas where the team could look to upgrade and get younger this offseason.
Cole is Signed for 8 years, $28,237,000 as part of a 5 year extension during the 2006 season. However, his cap number jumps dramatically beginning this season.
In 2013 cole collected a base salary of $3.5 million and that number jumps to $5 million, with a cap number of $6.6 million but if the Eagles choose to cut Cole before the season begins, his cap hit would be just $4.8 million.
Given the fact that the team is reportedly spending plenty of it's time at the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Al kicking the tires on outside linebacker prospects and a free agent class ripe with double-digit sack threats, one has to wonder if the the Eagles would tie up that kind of money on Cole heading into his tenth season.
Restructuring Cole's deal is always an option as the team is unlikely to commit $11.6 million, $12.6 million and $14 million each year through 2017 to a player who will be 35 years old by the time his contract expires. Heading into this offseason the Eagles sit $17 million under the cap but have the flexibility to free up as much as $26 million to spend this offseason.
The Eagles would save nearly $2 million by cutting Cole and that is money that could be allocated towards the likes of Brian Orakpo or Anthony Spencer, who are both expected to hit the open market when the league year opens on March 11th.
As the Eagles look to add the possible missing pieces to the puzzle of this defense evolving into a truly dominant unit, how the front office handles Cole and his future could be a key component to that makeover.
Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.