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Eagles release veteran LB DeMeco Ryans, will save $3.5M

PHILADELPHIA -- DeMeco Ryans, the veteran linebacker dubbed "Mufasa" by former coach Chip Kelly, was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday.

The move saves the Eagles $3.5 million under the 2016 salary cap.

Ryans, 31, earned the "Lion King"-based nickname for his steady leadership and the deep respect he commanded from his teammates. With a new coaching staff and a switch to a 4-3 defense this season under new coach Doug Pederson, Ryans became expendable.

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will try to fit linebackers Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso and Jordan Hicks into his scheme. Kendricks and Alonso are 25. Hicks is just 23.

Ryans tore his right Achilles tendon midway through the 2014 season. He returned for the beginning of the 2015 season but wasn't as effective as he had been before the injury.

Ryans missed two games this past season because of a hamstring injury. He finished the season with 68 tackles and one interception. In 2013, his last full season, Ryans was credited with 172 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions.

The Eagles acquired Ryans from the Houston Texans in a 2012 trade. He played middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme under then-Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, and moved to one of the inside linebacker spots under Kelly in 2013.

A second-round pick by Houston in 2006, Ryans spent six seasons with the Texans. He was selected for the Pro Bowl twice.