Connor Barwin

NFC Notes: 49ers, Barwin, Beckwith, Saints

Despite Jimmy Garoppolo entering his 49ers training camp, he’s not expected to receive an abnormal workload this preseason. Even though Kyle Shanahan has cited the time it takes for quarterbacks to become sufficiently assimilated in his system, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required) backup C.J. Beathard is likely to receive most of the reps during preseason games. The 49ers figure to have an ulterior motive by doing this, with Barrows writing San Francisco will want to trade Beathard for draft compensation at some point before his rookie contract expires. They will be intent on showcasing the 2017 third-rounder as much as possible as a result. The Iowa product completed 54.9 percent of his passes, with four TDs and six INTs, as a rookie before Garoppolo supplanted him as the Niners’ starter.

It’s camp-reporting week. Here’s the NFC’s latest:

  • Connor Barwin will be counted on to be one of Olivier Vernon‘s sidekicks this season, but his Giants agreement is not merely a one-year pact. Barwin agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $5MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). This will be Barwin’s fourth NFL team, with the Giants following the Texans, Eagles and Rams. A Pro Bowler with the 2014 Eagles, Barwin’s done his best work in 3-4 defenses — which the Giants will now use. Both of Barwin’s double-digit sack seasons (2011 and 2014) came in this set.
  • Chris Thompson said Monday he will avoid the Redskins‘ PUP list. Washington’s passing-down back broke one of his fibulas in November but has worked his way back. He’s expected to remain the Redskins’ receiving back. “I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Thompson said during a Sirius XM Radio interview (via PFT). “I will start practicing with the guys from Day 1 but just taking it slowly. The focus is to really be ready by that first regular-season game.”
  • Kendell Beckwith will not, however, avoid the Buccaneers‘ PUP (Twitter link, via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com). The young linebacker fractured an ankle in a car accident in April and underwent surgery. The immediate timetable tabbed Beckwith as unclear for Week 1, while a summer update indicated he might be ready in time for camp. Beckwith won’t meet that goal, it appears, but it’s not certain if he’s going to miss all of Tampa Bay’s camp.
  • Despite being a newcomer and coming off an ACL tear, Cameron Meredith looks like the frontrunner to claim the Saints‘ No. 2 wide receiver job, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com notes. Playing with quarterbacks who aren’t in Drew Brees‘ stratosphere, Meredith caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four TDs in 2016. Third-round rookie Tre’Quan Smith may also be a threat to diminish Ted Ginn and Brandon Coleman‘s playing time as well, per Katzenstein, though it’s hard to envision Ginn (53 receptions, 787 receiving yards last season) being squeezed out of a significant role. He’s owed $4.5MM this season.

Giants To Sign Connor Barwin

The Giants are expected to sign veteran outside linebacker Connor Barwin, a source tells Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The addition of Barwin will give the G-Men some much-needed depth at the position and a quality veteran presence. 

Barwin’s relationship with linebackers coach Bill McGovern likely helped to foster the deal. The two worked together in Philadelphia, where Barwin played as a starter from 2013-2016 and earned a Pro Bowl nod. McGovern was Barwin’s positional coach for his first three years with the Eagles.

This has been a surprisingly quiet offseason for Barwin. In June, Barwin was included on our list of the best remaining free agents, but there weren’t a lot of calls made on the 31-year-old. In, April that the linebacker visited with the Cardinals, and Rams general manager Les Snead had expressed interest in bringing him back for a second season in Los Angeles. Otherwise, there were no other reported workouts or visits for the former second-rounder.

The Giants’ rotation at edge rusher is headlined by standout Olivier Vernon, but there are lots of question marks outside of that. Barwin probably stands a good chance of making the cut as a reserve – particularly since he does his best work in a 3-4 scheme – but he’ll have to prove himself between now and September.

Following a four-year stint with the Eagles, Barwin signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal with the Rams last offseason. He managed to put up solid numbers for his new team, compiling 34 tackles and five sacks in 14 games (13 starts). However, advanced metrics weren’t kind to the nine-year veteran, as Pro Football Focus ranked Barwin as the third-worst pass rusher in the NFL among 106 candidates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

LB Connor Barwin To Sign Before Training Camp?

It’s been a relatively quiet offseason for Connor Barwin, but it sounds like the linebacker may have several offers on the table. During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio today, the free agent said he will likely sign with a contender before training camp.

“We’ve had interest from a number of teams all offseason,” said Barwin (via Twitter). “The offers I have, I think I’ll make my decision before camp starts. I’m not going to go somewhere that I don’t think can win a Super Bowl.”

Last month, Barwin was included on our list of the best remaining free agents, but there hasn’t been much interest in the 31-year-old. We learned back in April that the linebacker had visited with the Cardinals, and Rams general manager Les Snead had expressed interest in bringing him back for a second season in Los Angeles. Otherwise, there’s been no reported workouts or visits for the former second-rounder.

Following a four-year stint with the Eagles, Barwin signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal with the Rams last offseason. He managed to put up solid numbers for his new team, compiling 34 tackles and five sacks in 14 games (13 starts). However, advanced metrics weren’t kind to the nine-year veteran, as Pro Football Focus ranked Barwin as the third-worst pass rusher in the NFL among 106 candidates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp: 

Kaepernick probably stands as the most talented quarterback left on the open market, but his ongoing collusion case against the NFL complicated matters. It seems unlikely that he’ll land anywhere between now and the start of the season, but friend and former teammate Eric Reid probably has a better chance of signing somewhere, despite being in a similar boat. Recently, the duo was spotted working out together in California.

It seems like just yesterday that Murray was the league’s most fearsome running back. Unfortunately, Murray’s age has caught up to him to some extent and he was overshadowed last year in Tennessee by the younger Derrick HenryThe Titans dropped Murray in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Recently, the Saints tried to include Murray in their cattle call for running backs, but he declined the invite.

Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. It’s possible that Murray and Peterson won’t sign unless a running back injury opens up an opportunity for them. Teams could also steer clear of Peterson altogether given his desire for a starring role despite his lack of star performance over the last two years.

Bryant is the biggest name on this list, but we shouldn’t expect to see him sign anywhere until July. There have been conflicting reports on his market, but the latest word indicates that he is receiving interest, despite concerns about his demeanor in the locker room.

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The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer: 

Of course, Kaepernick’s situation is more complicated than the rest. Lately, the only updates we’ve heard regarding Kaepernick have been tied to his pending collusion case against the NFL. Former teammate Reid is certainly closer to the NFL radar after an April meeting with the Bengals, but he also believes teams are shying away from him due to his participation in anthem protests. Reid filed a grievance of his own against the NFL in May and has been spotted working out with Kaepernick.

Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.

Bryant says he has no regrets about turning down a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, but right now it looks like he blew his opportunity at a solid free agent deal. Reportedly, many teams are unwilling to consider him for even the league minimum, so it seems unlikely that he’ll find the lucrative one-year contract he’s seeking. On the plus side, his former employer says multiple teams have checked in on him.

Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.

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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.