Connor Barwin

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.

49ers Had Trade Interest In Connor Barwin

The 49ers discussed a Connor Barwin trade with the Eagles before he was released, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. As such, San Francisco could make sense as a landing spot for Barwin.Connor Barwin

Barwin was in the midst of a six-year, $36MM contract he signed in 2013. Last year, the 30-year-old totaled 34 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble. He appeared in all 16 regular season games for the sixth consecutive season.

Part of the reason for Barwin’s Eagles ouster is his poor fit in a 4-3 scheme. The 49ers are now moving to a 4-3 front under new coordinator Robert Saleh, although his defense is said to have elements of a 3-4 look. Either way, San Francisco clearly has some level of interest in adding Barwin to its roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Release Connor Barwin

The Eagles announced they have released veteran defensive end/outside linebacker Connor Barwin. It has long been rumored that the Eagles could cut Barwin loose. Connor Barwin

The Eagles first tried to find a suitable trade for Barwin, but that never came about. Barwin will certainly find a market for himself this week, but his contract was unpalatable. Barwin was in the midst of a six-year, $36MM contract he signed in 2013. Last year, the 30-year-old totaled 34 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble. He appeared in all 16 regular season games for the sixth consecutive season.

“If they cut him, teams will be lining up for him,” a pro personnel man said in February. “He wouldn’t be out of a job for long. I would think they could trade him and get something back. He has value. His deal this year isn’t that bad.”

By cutting Barwin, the Eagles will save $7.75MM against the cap and carry just $600K in dead money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Shopping Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks

The Eagles continue to explore trades for linebacker/defensive end Connor Barwin and linebacker Mychal Kendricks, reports CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). If the front office doesn’t find a trade partner, the duo could ultimately be cut.

Connor BarwinThere have been lingering rumors that the Eagles could look to move on from Barwin, and a February report indicated that several teams would have interest in the veteran. The 2009 second-round pick has spent the past four seasons in Philadelphia after inking a six-year, $36MM contract in 2013. The 30-year-old played in 16 games this past season for the sixth straight year, compiling 34 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble.

The 30-year-old is set to make $7.75MM next season, and his cap hit is $8.35MM. Barwin is set to make another $10.25MM in 2018. Cutting the eight-year veteran would save the franchise that $7.75MM, leaving the team with only $600K in dead cap.

It was reported last week that the Eagles were shopping Kendricks, and that still seems to be the case. The 26-year-old carries a $6.6MM cap number next season, but the Eagles will only clear $1.8MM in cap space by trading the linebacker. During his fourth season in Philadelphia, Kendricks collected 34 tackles, one forced fumble, and five sacks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Redskins, Eagles, Panthers, Pack

No matter the final outcome, the Redskins have mangled the Kirk Cousins negotiations, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports and Mike Jones of the Washington Post write in dueling pieces. If Washington applies the franchise tag for a second consecutive year, Cousins will have earned nearly $44MM over the past two years. That total, per Robinson, would have been an acceptable level of guarantees on a long-term Cousins deal that included, say, a $20MM annual average. In his piece, Jones invites former NFL negotiators Joel Corry and Joe Banner to discuss the Cousins situation in a back-and-forth format, making both articles must-reads.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Center Jason Kelce and edge rusher Connor Barwin could learn a bit more about their status with the Eagles this week, as the pair’s respective agents are set to meet with Philadelphia management at the scouting combine, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, who notes the Birds haven’t made a final decision on either player. Barwin ($7.75MM base salary) and Kelce ($5MM) are both candidates to be released or traded this offseason.
  • The Panthers have “little to lose” by re-signing defensive end Charles Johnson to another short-term contract, while a reunion between Carolina and Julius Peppers would also make sense, opines Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. Johnson, 30, inked a one-year, $3MM with the Panthers last offseason and responded by posting four sacks, while Peppers, who spent the first eight years of his career in Carolina, is likely done in Green Bay.
  • The Packers have made several additions to their coaching staff, announcing that they’ve hired Jeff Blasko as assistant offensive line coach, Tim McGarigle as defensive quality control coach, and David Raih as offensive perimeter coach. As Jason Wilde of ESPN.com points out (Twitter link), that list of coaches doesn’t include a replacement for former associate head coach/offense Tom Clements, who left Green Bay after his contract expired. The Packers could certainly announce such a hire in the future, or simply go without such a role on staff.