Anthony Barr

Revisiting Anthony Barr’s Decision To Remain With Vikings

One of the biggest surprises of free agency this year came when linebacker Anthony Barr, who had agreed to sign with the Jets, suddenly reversed course and opted to re-sign with the Vikings for less money than he would have earned with Gang Green.

At the time the news broke, we knew only that Barr wanted to remain with Minnesota and that the Vikings had sweetened their offer to convince him to return. But in a lengthy and fascinating piece that is worth a full read, Courtney Cronin and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com detail exactly how Barr’s decision played out.

The ESPN scribes write that, when the legal tampering period opened on March 11, Barr had a few suitors, but the Jets quickly rose to the top of the list because of how much money they could offer. Barr had identified the Jets — who planned to capitalize on his athleticism as a blitzer and his ability to drop into coverage — as his top choice if he couldn’t remain with the Vikings. New York, which signed linebacker C.J. Mosley not long before Barr canceled his deal with the Jets, had every intention of bringing Mosley and Barr into the fold.

And as it turns out, New York’s offer was even higher than was initially reported. Per Cronin and Cimini, Barr’s agent, Ryan Williams, could tell that his client was very hesitant to accept the Jets’ pitch — in response to New York’s initial offers, Barr simply said, “where’s Minnesota?” — and Williams convinced the Jets to increase their offer to over $15MM per season, which Barr had indicated he would accept. But when Williams called Barr to tell him the Jets had met his asking price, Barr said, “I feel like I just made the worst mistake of my life.”

Barr did not want to back out of the Jets deal since he had given them his word, but Williams called Gang Green to let them know Barr was having second thoughts. Minnesota, meanwhile, was convinced it could not re-sign Barr because of its shortage of cap space, and rather than extending what it felt would be a disrespectful, low-ball offer, it stayed out of the sweepstakes entirely.

So the Vikings were very surprised to get a “frantic” call from Williams asking for the team’s best and final offer. Minnesota extended itself as far as it could go, the Jets offered to fly Barr out to New York to convince him to come to the Big Apple, and the decision was in Barr’s hands. Of course, he ultimately chose to accept Minnesota’s offer, and the excitement he felt when Williams told him he was back with the Vikings proves to him that he made the right choice.

Barr said, “I was trying to convince myself of something I knew that in my heart didn’t feel right, and I think if you follow the heart, I can live with the results.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Thomas, Barr, Peterson

Some assorted contract details from the around the NFL:

Anthony Barr Cancels Jets Deal, Re-Signs With Vikings

Anthony Barr won’t be signing with the Jets after all. The linebacker’s contract has been called off, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Instead, he’ll re-sign with the Vikings.

The Vikings gave Barr a five-year deal worth $67.5MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, with $33MM of this pact being guaranteed. Incentives can raise Barr’s earnings to $77MM. 

This is pretty shocking news, as the contract with New York was reported as having been a done deal last night. His deal with the Jets was reportedly going to pay Barr over $14MM annually, so it sounds like he took slightly less to stay in Minnesota.

Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News tweets that the Vikings sweetened their initial offer, which helped sway Barr to change his mind. Barr’s desire to remain in Minnesota helped make up for the slight disparity between the two proposals, Mehta adds (on Twitter).

As for the money Barr did receive, it will make him the second-highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the game. The Jets’ C.J. Mosley deal tops the list, by a considerable margin. Both of this week’s deals set a new high bar for what had been a stagnant market, with Jamie Collins‘ 2017 Browns deal being non-rush linebackers’ high-water mark for nearly two years — prior to Cleveland cutting Collins.

While it certainly caught the Jets by surprise, it might not end up being all that bad for New York. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that the Jets have taken some of the money they were going to pay Barr, and used it to make “a last and final big offer to Le’Veon Bell.”

Rapoport writes that it’s now “decision time” for Bell, as the Jets appear to have made their final offer. The Jets have been saying for months they were going to be aggressive in free agency, and they’ve certainly delivered on that promise. The Jets have been the team most consistently linked to Bell, and they seem to be the frontrunner for his services as of now.

Barr has spent his entire five-year career with the Vikings, earning four Pro Bowl nods along the way, and had always maintained that he wanted to stay a Viking. The former first-rounder had another standout season in 2018, finishing with 55 tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble. The Vikings ultimately decided to pass on franchising Barr, a move that would have cost $15.9MM.

This represents another major Vikings investment in their homegrown core, with Barr joining numerous defensive starters in being signed to long-term deals. This also figures to scratch a possible move to more of an edge-rushing role. The Jets were planning to incorporate more of Barr’s college-years edge work into their scheme, but with the Vikings, the five-year veteran has consistently worked as an off-ball linebacker. It appears he is comfortable in this role and will not be leaving the Twin Cities.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Tannehill, Mosley, Giants

The Jets made some noise on Day 1 of the legal tampering period, adding Anthony Barr, Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy to the mix. Their Barr deal also may not preclude them from a C.J. Mosley pact. The Jets aggressively pursued the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker on Monday, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets. Other teams — including the Browns, Colts and Redskins, in addition to the Ravens — made pushes for Mosley, and those may start back up again Tuesday. The linebacker remains unsigned. The Jets still have plenty of cap room and may be set to waive Darron Lee soon, creating room for Mosley alongside Avery Williamson.

While Barr is expected to help the Jets’ edge rush, he is also viewed as someone who will play off the ball, Mehta notes, comparing the latest high-priced Gregg Williams chess piece to Jamie Collins — the Browns’ off-ball ‘backer who would rush quarterbacks as well. However, it sounds like Barr — a UCLA edge defender — will see more time in rush roles than Collins did.

Here is more from the Jets’ first day of unofficial free agency and the latest from Giants headquarters:

  • A third Josh McCown Jets season could occur, with the team maintaining some interest in the soon-to-be 40-year-old passer backing up Sam Darnold, per SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. But McCown released a statement Monday night indicating he is undecided on continuing his career, which could put the Jets in the market for another backup.
  • One of those options figures to be Ryan Tannehill, given his three-year run with Adam Gase in Miami. However, the soon-to-be-released quarterback has not come up in Jets meetings about filling their QB2 role, per Mehta. Tannehill could command a higher-end backup salary, like McCown, due to his extensive run as a starter. But he has not proven he can stay healthy since his knee troubles began in 2016.
  • A Mosley backup plan may be former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. The Jets expressed interest in the longtime Denver starter, according to Vacchiano. This would also point to Lee not being in the team’s plans any longer.
  • A third Morris Claiborne contract will not be on the Jets’ agenda, despite their need at corner, Vacchiano adds. Claiborne’s past two free agency stays ended with Jets deals; the veteran corner will likely have to seek his latest contract elsewhere.
  • The Broncos just reset the right tackle market, with their four-year, $52MM deal for Ja’Wuan James, and that should drive up the price for Daryl Williams. The Giants are likely to express interest in the former Panthers starter, Vacchiano notes. But as was the case with former Dave Gettleman find Andrew Norwell, whom the Giants tried to sign last year, Williams probably won’t come cheap. That said, Norwell and James were coming off healthy seasons; Williams missed almost all of last season because of leg injuries.
  • Big Blue, per Vacchiano, also inquired Monday about former Redskins outside linebacker Preston Smith, who is one of this market’s top edge defenders. The Giants just traded Olivier Vernon to the Browns and have a massive need on the edge. But Smith will also be a coveted commodity on this market.

Jets Looking To Move On From LB Darron Lee

With the Jets expected to sign Anthony Barr, the team is apparently looking to move on from one of their current linebackers. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily Post reports that the team sought a linebacker upgrade “with the hope of ultimately moving on” from former first-rounder Darron Lee.

To be clear, it doesn’t necessarily sound like Barr will replace Lee in the literal sense. The free agent addition is expected to be an “off-ball” linebacker, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter), a role that Barr’s familiar with from his days at UCLA. As Mehta explains, new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was seeking a linebacker who would play a role that was similar to Jamie Collins‘ in Cleveland last season.

Still, the Jets are expected to team up Barr with Avery Williamson and then “explore their remaining options for Lee,” according to Mehta. The 24-year-old hasn’t emerged as a bona fide playmaker during his three seasons in the NFL. Lee did tally 94 tackles and three sacks in 2017, but he took a step back in 2018, finishing with 74 tackles and no sacks in 12 games (he did compile a career-high three interceptions).

The linebacker was suspended for the final four games of the 2018 season after violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Mehta writes that the suspension “triggered a forfeiture of his guaranteed money,” meaning the Jets could move on from Lee without taking a significant financial hit. The defender is set to make $1.8MM in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

LB Anthony Barr Intends To Sign With Jets

Anthony Barr is heading to the Big Apple. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the veteran linebacker intends to sign with the Jets.

Terms of this deal reveal how high the Jets are on Barr, with Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reporting (via Twitter) the former Vikings ‘backer will earn more than $14MM per year. If the Jets are planning to use Barr as an off-ball ‘backer, that would be far and away the top such contract in the league. However, they may be planning something different.

The Vikings used Barr as a 4-3 outside linebacker, but at UCLA, the eventual 2014 first-round pick played as an edge player. Barr stands to return to that role, per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). This will be a fascinating experiment, in that event, and the Jets stationing Barr on the outside means they did not pay top-market price to land him. While Barr is not an experienced NFL pass rusher, he registered 23.5 sacks between the 2012-13 seasons for the Bruins.

Gregg Williams plans to keep the Jets as a 3-4 team, so it looks like Barr will serve as one of the team’s outside linebackers. The Jets entered free agency expected to aggressively pursue that position, and their No. 3 overall pick may be used on it, too — if Gang Green hangs onto it.

We heard earlier today that the Jets were eyeing the soon-to-be 27-year-old Barr. This morning, the team whiffed on Kwon Alexander, who ultimately agreed to a lucrative four-year deal with the 49ers. The Jets then shifted their focus to Barr, and the two sides apparently agreed to a deal relatively quickly.

The linebacker had spent his entire five-year career with the Vikings, earning four Pro Bowl nods along the way. The former first-rounder had another standout season in 2018, finishing with 55 tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble. The Vikings ultimately decided to pass on franchising Barr, a move that would have cost $15.9MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Chasing Anthony Barr

The Jets are stepping up their pursuit of linebacker Anthony Barr, according to a source who spoke with Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (on Twitter). It’s the logical next step after the Jets missed out on Kwon Alexander, who just agreed to sign a whopping four-year, $54MM deal with the 49ers

Barr, who turns 27 on March 18, has spent his entire five-year career with the Vikings thus far. He’s earned Pro Bowl nods in each of the last four seasons, but the Vikings passed on the opportunity to tag him for $15.9MM.

Barr was employed as a 4-3 ‘backer in Minnesota, but he was a 3-4 outside linebacker at UCLA and could refocus his efforts on the pass rush. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was widely expected to flip Gang Green to a 4-3 look, but he’s reportedly going to keep things consistent with a 3-4 scheme.

In college, Barr amassed 23.5 sacks in his last two years in Westwood. In the NFL, he has never tallied more than four sacks in any given season. Last year, Barr had three sacks to go along with 55 tackles across 13 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets, 49ers Interested In Kwon Alexander

The Jets and 49ers are interested in Buccaneers free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter) hears. Stroud also hears that Alexander is seeking a deal that would pay him between $10-$12MM. 

Alexander’s 2018 season ended in October after he suffered a torn ACL. Prior to the injury, the linebacker was discussing an extension with the Bucs, though they were unwilling to break the $10MM/year mark for him.

A fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft, Alexander has started 46 games over three-plus years with the Buccaneers. Last season, he posted 38 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one sack while grading as the No. 53 linebacker at the time of his injury, per Pro Football Focus. In 2017, Alexander earned his first career Pro Bowl selection and graded out as PFF’s No. 37 off-ball ‘backer. In 2016, he registered an eye-popping 145 stops.

The Niners are also expected to pursue C.J. Mosley (Ravens) and Anthony Barr (Vikings), according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports, so the linebacker position is high on their agenda.

Given the interest in Alexander, the Bucs are bracing to lose him, Stroud hears. And, on Monday morning, Alexander texted a group of his teammates telling them he’s going to miss them, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Buccaneers are in a similar boat with wide receiver Adam Humphries, says Stroud, since Humphries is expected to garner offers of $9MM-$10MM on the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings’ Anthony Barr Likely To Hit Free Agency

Anthony Barr has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past four seasons and has been a stalwart on the Vikings’ defense since Minnesota drafted him with the 9th overall pick of the 2014 draft, but it appears the two sides are headed for a parting of the ways. Per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, there is no indication that Barr and the Vikings have recently engaged in contract talks, and given the cost of the franchise tag for linebackers ($15.9MM), Minnesota is highly unlikely to tag him.

As such, Barr is set to hit the open market, and he will surely get paid handsomely. He was a 3-4 outside linebacker at UCLA –racking up 23.5 sacks in his last two years with the Bruins — and though he converted to a 4-3 ‘backer when he came to the Vikings, his pass rushing abilities have not left him. As Krammer observes, Barr has twice been rated Pro Football Focus’ most efficient blitzing linebacker, including the 2018 season, though he has been one of the league’s top 10 most frequent blitzers just once in his first five years in the league.

He could therefore hold significant appeal to a number of clubs. He has proven himself as a quality 4-3 stack linebacker, but his pedigree and upside as a pass rusher will make him almost universally attractive. His sack numbers are not eye-catching, but that is a function not only of the position he plays, but the discipline with which head coach Mike Zimmer‘s unit operates. Barr said, “If you watch a lot of teams — the Panthers, Miami, Oakland, Cincinnati — a lot of linebackers are going under blocks and not playing their gaps. Either they get gashed or they make a big splash play. We play sound across the board. I think it also hurts stat numbers because we’re going to hold our gap and force the ball to go elsewhere.”

The Vikings’ defense fared well when Barr was sidelined for several games last season, and with much of their veteran defensive core already under contract for the long-term, it seems unlikely they will bring Barr back unless they get him on a team-friendly deal. Though they approached Barr about an extension last summer, it does not appear they ever came close to an agreement. Per Krammer, Barr said that Minnesota’s offers were not what he expected.

He should have more luck when free agency opens on March 13.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ansah, Lions, Sherman, 49ers, Michel, Patriots, Barr, Vikings

Ezekiel Ansah has missed almost the entire season with a mysterious shoulder injury. He played in the Lions’ opener against the Jets, and notched four tackles and a sack, but hasn’t played since. Detroit has been mum on what exactly is ailing Ansah, and he’s appeared close to returning a few times recently but has never suited up. He’s practice on a limited basis the past couple of weeks, but still hasn’t been ready.

This week might be different, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets that Ansah “did more in practice Friday than I’ve seen him in recent weeks.” It seems like Ansah is ramping up his activity and has a very good chance to return tomorrow against the Seahawks. Ansah, who’s playing on a franchise tag, would provide a big boost to a suddenly resurgent Lions defense.

Here’s more on some big injuries from around the league:

  • Richard Sherman appears on track to return for the 49ers tomorrow against the Cardinals after a two game absence, but might have to miss Week 9 because of it. Sherman told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s going to attempt to play through the injury, but might be too sore to play on short-rest in Week 9. The 49ers play on Thursday Night Football, and it doesn’t sound like Sherman thinks he’ll be able to play two games in four days.
  • The Patriots have been typically tight-lipped about Sony Michel‘s injury, but the recent word is that it isn’t too serious. That being said, Michel has been downgraded to doubtful for the team’s Monday night game against the Bills, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). If it’s true that it’s relatively minor, Michel should be able to return in Week 9.
  • The Vikings’ defense has already been pretty banged up, and they got even more bad news recently. Linebacker Anthony Barr has been ruled out, which will end his streak of 44 consecutive games started for the Vikings, according to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Vikings will be considerably short-handed for their game against the Saints, and Barr’s absence will surely be felt over the middle.