Connor Barwin

Cardinals To Meet With LB Connor Barwin

The Cardinals will host free agent edge defender Connor Barwin this week, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

PFR ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened roughly a month ago, and while he remains arguably the best edge defender still available, he’s drawn little interest thus far. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but there haven’t been any developments on that front.

A robust market should have never been expected for Barwin, especially given that he’s entering his age-32 campaign and coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. While he played on 71% of Los Angeles’ defensive snaps a year ago, Barwin graded as the third-worst pass rusher in the NFL among 106 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

If signed by Arizona, Barwin would slot in as a reserve for a defense that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Given that NFL sack leader Chandler Jones and Markus Golden project as the Cardinals’ starting outside linebackers, Barwin could take over for Kareem Martin (who signed a three-year deal with the Giants) as Arizona’s rotational edge rusher.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Talking With John Sullivan, Connor Barwin

Rams general manager Les Snead said the team is hoping to bring back center John Sullivan and linebacker Connor Barwin, and have begun talking with their representatives, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez tweets.

Sullivan, 32, played 15 games in his first season with the team and helped pave the way for Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley to amass a league-leading 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus ranked the veteran the 10th-best center in the NFL in 2017 with a 74.6 grade.

Barwin, 31, played in 14 games and started 13 while registering 34 tackles and five sacks. The former Eagles and Texans linebacker endured a down year and was rated as the No. 103 edge defender by Pro Football Focus. With the team’s trade of Robert Quinn to the Dolphins earlier in the offseason, Los Angeles would like to have Barwin back as a reliable veteran coming off the end.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Connor Barwin Expected To Miss 1-2 Games

Rams linebacker Connor Barwin could not finish out yesterday’s big win over the Saints and is likely to miss 1-2 games, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter Link). Rapoport notes that the 31-year-old pass rusher suffered a slight fracture in a bone in his forearm, though the ailment isn’t expected to keep him out of the lineup long-term.

Connor Barwin (Vertical)

Barwin has managed four sacks on the season thus far, but grades out poorly as an overall edge defender, amassing a below-average grade of 43.6 this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Without Barwin, the Rams will likely turn to more inexperienced outside linebackers, including third-year player Matt Longacre and rookies Samson Ebukam and Ejuan Price. The loss of the veteran defender puts more pressure on the likes of stalwarts Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn to make plays, especially in the passing game. Los Angeles will travel to division rival Arizona on Sunday, hoping to keep pace with the rest of the division leaders in the NFC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Saints, Redskins, Rams

The Eagles reportedly have interest in a reunion with free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, but their lack of cap space (around $5MM) is likely to stand in the way, writes David Murphy of Philly.com. Plus, with other proven pass-catching options in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz, the Eagles don’t need Maclin as much as other teams that are chasing him. Therefore, Philadelphia won’t have the motivation to get into a bidding war for Maclin and use what little spending room it has left on him, reasons Murphy.

Elsewhere around the NFC…

  • The Saints had interest in pass rusher Elvis Dumervil before he signed with the 49ers on Monday, reports Nick Underhill of the Advocate (on Twitter). It took the 33-year-old Dumervil nearly three months to find a new home after the Ravens released him in March, but San Francisco was the only team to bring him in for a workout. Dumervil potentially could’ve helped a New Orleans club whose defense finished just 27th in sacks last season.
  • A pay cut for Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall is seemingly inevitable, suggests Rich Tandler of CSNMidAtlantic.com. The Redskins would like to knock $2MM to $3MM off the 33-year-old’s salary, per Tandler. Hall’s currently set to make $4.25MM, which is high for someone who has appeared in just 17 of 48 regular-season games dating back to 2014 and could begin 2017 on the physically unable to perform list.
  • Although Rams pass rusher Connor Barwin‘s took a one-year deal earlier in the offseason, his goal is to play through the 2020 campaign. “Yeah, I think I want to play 12 years,” he told Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. “This will be nine, so I think I have four more. I’d like to do three stints of four – Houston, Philly and L.A.” Barwin played under new Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with the Texans from 2011-12, and the 30-year-old expects their reunion to prolong his career. “I loved playing for Wade [while with the Texans in 2011-12], just in general,” said Barwin. “But I think playing in this system will be good for me to keep playing for a couple more years, because it takes advantage of what I do well. It allows me to still play every single snap. Play first down, second down, rush the passer on third down, but be able to cover guys when I need to — tight ends, running backs, that sort of thing.

NFC Notes: Rams, Eagles, Cards, Saints

Connor Barwin‘s decision to sign with the Rams last week came thanks in part to the presence of new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the edge rusher told the Associated Press. “Wade did a lot for me in the two years I was with Houston,” said Barwin, who played under Phillips as a Texan from 2011-12. “He taught me so much about being a pro, enjoying being around the game every single day, and he really elevated my game as a pass rusher.” Barwin only hit free agency in the first place because the Eagles released him, which came after he rejected a pay cut. While the 30-year-old said in December he’d be open to reducing his $7.5MM salary for 2017 to remain with the Eagles, their offer was “far below” what he thought he’d get on the market, per the AP. Ultimately, the Rams gave Barwin a one-year deal worth a max of $6.5MM.

More from the NFC:

  • Cardinals general manager Steve Keim likes North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, according to the Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley, who writes that the executive is facing a dilemma entering the draft. The Cardinals need a long-term answer under center, meaning choosing Trubisky or another signal-caller with the 13th overall pick is a possibility. However, using a first-rounder on a player who won’t help in 2017 isn’t going to benefit a team whose window could be closing as starting QB Carson Palmer, top wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and head coach Bruce Arians near the end of the line. At the same time, though, Keim doesn’t want to be left without a potential successor to the soon-to-be 38-year-old Palmer if he retires after next season. That might end up being the case if Keim doesn’t grab a quarterback in the early rounds.
  • The Eagles have picked up two established receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason, but Paul Domowitch of Philly.com could still envision the team selecting a wideout in Round 1 of the draft. Jeffery and Smith might not be Eagles beyond next season, for one, while Jordan Matthews is on track to hit free agency next March. So, while Philadelphia’s receiving corps looks like a strength right now, it lacks long-term certainty.
  • The Saints converted left tackle Terron Armstead‘s $5MM roster bonus to a signing bonus, thereby creating $4MM in cap room for 2017, reports Field Yates of ESPN (Twitter link). The move doesn’t come without a penalty, though, as the Saints will add $1MM in cap charges in each season from from 2018-21 – the final four years of Armstead’s contract.
  • Defensive tackle Jordan Hill‘s contract with the Lions is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $775K, tweets Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. The pact comes with $45K in guarantees, a $40K signing bonus, and another $40K if he makes the Lions’ 53-man roster.

Rams To Sign Connor Barwin

The Rams have announced an agreement with free agent pass rusher Connor Barwin. It’s a one-year deal with a maximum value of $6.5MM, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan.

Connor Barwin (vertical)

After serving as a defensive end in the Eagles’ 4-3 scheme last year, Barwin will function as an outside linebacker in Rams coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4. Barwin previously played under Phillips in Houston from 2011-12, when he started all 32 of the Texans’ games and picked up 14.5 sacks. He then moved on to Philadelphia and added 64 more starts in a row over the past four seasons, during which he registered another 31.5 sacks. Five of those sacks came last year for Barwin, but his overall performance ranked just 100th among Pro Football Focus’ 109 qualified edge defenders amid concerns he wasn’t a fit for Jim Schwartz‘s scheme.

Unsurprisingly, after they were unable to move him in a trade, the Eagles cut Barwin last Thursday and saved $7.5MM in cap room. Barwin didn’t take long to find work, though, and he also drew interest from the Bengals. In Los Angeles, he’ll join Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn as the top pass rushers on a team that tied for 24th in the NFL with 31 sacks last season and has since dealt William Hayes to the Dolphins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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Connor Barwin To Visit Rams

Connor Barwin will meet with the Rams on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter). This marks the veteran’s second free agent trip since being released by the Eagles earlier this month. Earlier this week, he met with the Bengals, but he left Cincinnati without a deal. 

The Rams will be running a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and that could be a good fit for Barwin. Days ago, the Rams jettisoned William Hayes to the Dolphins because he was not an ideal fit for their gameplan. Barwin could come in and start opposite of Aaron Donald with Michael Brockers in the middle.

The 30-year-old was in the midst of a six-year, $36MM contract when the Eagles released him last week. Last season, Barwin racked up 34 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble. He also appeared in every single regular season game for the sixth consecutive season. Those numbers all sound good, but the advanced metrics aren’t so high on him. Barwin graded out as just the No. 100 edge defender in the NFL last year out of 109 qualified players, per Pro Football Focus. He had respectable overall scores with Philly in 2013 and 2014 (76.2, 78.5), but he has dipped in the last two seasons with scores of 50.8 and 42.1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Connor Barwin To Visit Bengals

Defensive end Connor Barwin is set to meet with the Bengals on Monday, reports ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter). This will be the veteran’s first visit since he was released by the Eagles last week.

Connor BarwinThe former second-round pick joined the Eagles in 2013 after signing a six-year, $36MM contract ($8MM guaranteed), and he proceeded to make his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2014. The 30-year-old didn’t miss a game during his four-year tenure in Philly, starting all but one game. Barwin finished 2016 with 34 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumbles.

Signing with the Bengals would be a bit of a homecoming for Barwin, who played 51 games for the Cincinnati Bearcats between 2005 and 2008.

As Caplan notes, the Bengals need help at both defensive end and linebacker, and Barwin is capable of filling either hole. The team is currently rostering three defensive ends (Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Will Clarke) and six linebackers (Vincent ReyRey MaualugaVontaze BurfictMarquis FlowersNick Vigil, Paul Dawson).

The 49ers reportedly had interest in Barwin before he was let go by the Eagles.