On Tuesday, it was announced that Eagles defensive end Jason Babin had been waived.
The move came as a surprise, as Babin was a highly-coveted free agent in 2011, and finished last season with 18.0 sacks, third-best in the NFL. His production has dipped this season, however, as he's notched just 5.5 sacks through 11 games.
But with the Patriots down potentially two of their top three defensive ends this weekend (Jermaine Cunningham will miss the next four games due to a suspension, while Chandler Jones' status remains unclear due to a recent ankle injury), many have wondered whether or not the team would have interest in Babin.
We don't know the answer to that question, but Babin's future could be determined by the NFL's waiver system later today. If no team opts to claim Babin (which would involve that team absorbing his current contract), he would become a free agent and available to sign with any team.
If teams opt to put a claim on Babin, however, he would be awarded to the team that has the worst record thus far in 2012. The Patriots, at 8-3, have the fifth-best record in all of football, meaning they have a low-priority position on the waiver wire (we were unable to clarify with the NFL's league office whether the Patriots have the 26th, 27th, or 28th priority due to tie-breaking procedures; the Bears and Broncos are also 8-3).
Should a team be awarded Babin on waivers, they would also take on his current contract, which is laid out below:
2012: Owed $1.64 million for the remaining 5 games.
2013: Owed $4.225 million in base salary (none of which is guaranteed), can earn an additional $100,000 in a workout bonus
2014: Owed $6 million in base salary (none of which is guaranteed), can earn an additional $175,000 in a workout bonus
2015: Owed $6 million in base salary (none of which is guaranteed), can earn an additional $150,000 in a workout bonus
2016: Free agent
*Note: If Babin produces 2.5 more sacks in 2012, his base salary for 2013 would escalate by $400,000; if he produces 4.5 more sacks in 2012, his base salary for 2013 would escalate by $500,000.
(All contract information provided by a league source).
ANALYSIS: So what does it all mean? In a nutshell, a team that claims Babin would only be responsible for the $1.64 million that he is owed in 2012. Beyond that, the team could cut ties and not have to pay Babin any additional money. That being said, $1.64 million for five games is a large sum for a team, especially because Babin would have to come in and learn a new scheme during the home stretch of the season. As it relates to the Patriots, the team could be in the market for pass-rushing help because of the aforementioned circumstances relating to the defensive end position. Coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday didn't rule out adding a player from the outside to help the pass rush. While his production is down from 2011, Babin clearly has value as an edge rusher who can get to the passer using his speed and quickness. From a dollars and sense standpoint, the Patriots are far enough under the salary cap that they would be able to claim Babin if there is interest. While he has some limitations as a run defender, the team may see a need to add pass rushing help given their current circumstances, and his 36 sacks since 2010 are difficult to ignore. We'll find out much more about Babin's future when the NFL waiver wire is released later today.