June 29, 2019
In an interview with heavy.com, former Philadelphia Eagles OLB/DE Connor Barwin expressed his interest in re-joining the team for the 2019 season, and revealed that he has even had discussions with Howie Roseman about the possibility.
“I’m trying to come back and play for the Eagles,” Barwin told Heavy.com. “I’m training right now and I’ve talked to [Eagles GM] Howie [Roseman] and they’re going to see if they need any depth on the edge and so I’m going to wait until camp starts before I sign anywhere else, but obviously I’m not going to wait too long. But the Eagles know that’s where I want to be.”
Barwin fueled speculation of an Eagles reunion last week when he posted an Instagram picture at Lincoln Financial Field. Turns out, he was there for a conference hosted by Green Sports Alliance where he was speaking on a panel about environmental justice and sports. That may have been a coincidence, but Barwin has been in talks with Roseman throughout the offseason about his desire to return. The two have even discussed the specific role he might play on the Eagles’ defense, similar to the situational pass-rushing one perfected by Chris Long.
In his four years in Philly, Barwin became a popular player, as much for his off-the-field charitable work as his production on it. His best season with the Birds was is 2014, when he racked up 64 tackles (15 for loss), 14.5 sacks, 21 hits on the quarterback, and a pair of forced fumbles. That year, he made the Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro.
Throughout the Chip Kelly era (2013-2015), Barwin was one of the most valuable members in Billy Davis' 3-4 defense because of his versatility. Barwin could cover, rush the passer, and play the run, but was not a dominant player when doing any of those individual things.
In 2016, when the Eagles switched back to a 4-3 defensive scheme under Jim Schwartz that has historically been very stat-friendly for defensive ends, Barwin posted the worst numbers of his Eagles career:
That season, he played 70 percent of the defensive snaps.
In 2017, Barwin was set to count for $8,350,000 against the salary cap, and the team released him during that offseason, saving $7,750,000 against the cap. They did so even with Barwin saying publicly that he was open to taking a pay cut. He landed with the Rams in 2017 and the Giants in 2018. He tallied five sacks in 2017 and one in 2018.
Many (self included) have made the easy observation that Chris Long and Michael Bennett, who combined for 15.5 sacks in 2018, moved on this offseason. The Eagles brought veteran Vinny Curry back, and for now, are hoping one of their younger defensive ends will step up.
Earlier in June, defensive line coach Phillip Daniels was asked about the team's perceived lack of depth at defensive end.
"I don't see it that way," Daniels said. "I think we have a lot of depth. We have a lot of young guys fighting for positions. You have guys that were drafted for that reason, so I think we're going to be fine at defensive end. We'll take those guys and they'll just keep improving every day, and we'll be fine with them."
Obviously, Daniels isn't making personnel decisions, but his view seems to match the Eagles' overall view of the position.
In the heavy.com interview, Barwin, now 32 (he'll turn 33 in October), was realistic that it would probably take an injury to Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, or Vinny Curry for the Eagles to have interest in bringing him back.
“I’m going into my 11th year and I’m ready to just be a situational player. Howie knows. I’ll be there if one of the three guys get hurt or if something happens, or to mentor the younger guys,” Barwin said, referring to Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and Derek Barnett. “You know, Philly’s situation is BG, Vinny, and DB — three great guys on the edge — and I would come in to support those guys. If I don’t play in Philly, it would be the same situation somewhere else. Be the third edge guy.”
Even in the event of an injury, the thinking here is that the Eagles would probably be best served to add more of a pass rush specialist, as opposed to a jack-of-all-trades player in Barwin's mold. His best fit, in my view, should he continue his career in the NFL, would be with a 3-4 defense who can best utilize his versatility in a reserve outside linebacker role.