Just in case you missed our article, click here to find out which four defensive players I (Zeke) believe should be on your radar in the NFC East. Remember, we are looking for players who are not rookies but are still on rookie contracts. The coming articles will break down why the four players were selected. Rupayan “Abs” Samanta, who is also an Editor here at EWFN, returns to co-author another football article with me. We want to remind our readers that we will be splitting our opinions between each other, using parentheses to differentiate between who is talking at what time. Whenever we have a collective thought, we will write “we”, otherwise it will be (Zeke) and (Abs) in parentheses so you can figure out whose perspective you are reading at any particular moment. With that, we begin with the Philadelphia Eagles and DE Derek Barnett.

 

The defensive line has always been a focus for the Philadelphia Eagles. It is something that they put pride in and focus on every single year, always looking to stack up the trenches at every opportunity. Barnett is a player who has had up and down seasons so far. He started off strong in his rookie year with five sacks, a forced fumble, a TD, and 21 total tackles in 15 games. His sophomore year did not go as well due to a season-ending shoulder injury. He ended up with 2.5 sacks and 16 tackles in six games, but at least all of them were starts. He did rebound in his third season, recording a career-high 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, along with 30 tackles, in 14 games (all of them starts). Finally, he had a slight dip in sacks (5.5) in year four, although he did have a career-high 34 tackles, in 13 games (10 starts). Though he does have some years under his belt, he is still just 25 years of age, and the intrigue is definitely there. He is young and experienced, which is why Philadelphia exercised his fifth-year option, indicating that he has impressed enough to be considered a part of the near future at the very least.

With all the positives, you always have to look at the negatives as well. For Barnett, the criticism is that his production is not worth his first-round draft selection, no matter how solid they look. First-round picks, in general, have a higher expectation to perform right away, and the general concern regarding Barnett is that his stats are just not enough. The expectations were warranted, given that he broke Reggie White’s collegiate sack record (33), so it is understandable that fans want to see actual production instead of just flashes here and there.

Of course, one thing to look at when it comes to stats for defensive linemen is that sacks are just registered to the guy(s) making the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. You do need to look at the pressure created too, as a particular player may not have been the one to make the tackle but it was his pressure that allowed for another player to get the opportunity to take down the QB. Mostly, it is the DT who creates this sort of pressure, but Barnett does have relentless motor, which allows him to create possible holes just by moving his man out of the way and allowing a teammate to make a play.

My (Abs) personal belief is that, sure, his stats don’t match up to his draft position, and maybe it is a bit underwhelming after you see him average 10 sacks a year in three years to go along with 198 total tackles, including 52 TFLs (tackles for loss). I am choosing to take the good with the bad and say that he is still a reliably solid DE who I would like to keep on the Eagles as much as possible. I know money is a huge factor especially for Philadelphia, who were over the salary cap by about $15-20 million at one point, so there is a chance that they let him walk if they can’t come to terms. They did draft four defensive linemen (2 DEs and 2 DTs; you can find out more details here in Zeke’s 2021 NFL Draft NFC East Recap) in 2021, so they do have plenty of depth if they choose to move on from him. Defensive linemen, in general, do tend to get reasonable contracts in the market, so he may end up with a good offer anyways if he does leave.

We expect that Barnett will benefit from the additions that the team made during the offseason. Even though the team likes to play with rotations on the defensive line, we do feel that adding a division rival’s all-time sack leader (Ryan Kerrigan, with 95.5) is a large upgrade. This was a very under-the-radar pickup that we truly believe will benefit them. This move is also very interesting because it really gives the Eagles some sort of flexibility. Let’s say that Barnett does not earn a starting position again, even if the current projection is that he will. If so, the Eagles could put some emphasis on their other defensive players, thus making Barnett a moving piece. He is definitely in a weird predicament, either benefiting from the revamped help to stay fresh and healthy throughout the season or ending up getting moved through trade/free agency. Maybe, in the end, it ends up being both!

*UPDATE*: Barnett recently had his contract restructured. He was set to become a free agent in 2022 after his fifth-year option would run out, and he would’ve been paid $10 million. Since exact details are not yet known, a couple of things are being guessed at: either voidable years have been added to his contract so that cap space can be freed up or he might’ve gotten a contract extension. This tweet by Tim McManus has some of the details, with more soon to come.

Honorable Mentions: S K’Von Wallace, DE Josh Sweat.

 

Sources

  1. Cover Photo: https://www.bleedinggreennation.com/2020/6/13/21289968/eagles-news-derek-barnett-working-out-jim-washburn-philadelphia-defensive-line-coach-tennessee-edge
  2. Barnett’s statistics: https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/3115336/derek-barnett

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