The Eagles are continuing to do more than just revamp their defense during free agency. They’re pretty much creating a whole new defense, and preferably one that isn’t horrendous and gashed in every way imaginable.
It started with the signings of Kenny Phillips and Cary Williams earlier this afternoon, and they now join a shiny new defensive backfield alongside fellow signees Patrick Chang and Bradley Fletcher. This is what an implosion and immediate rebuild looks like, and it’s why in the NFL, bad teams usually aren’t bad for long. Unless, of course, they’re named the Jaguars.
The latest signing is Connor Barwin, the defensive end who leaves the Texans to bring a pass rushing presence to an Eagles front four that brought the quarterback down only 30 times in 2012. But the cost to bring him in is…woah.
Barwin reportedly received a six-year contract worth $36 million, and that base salary could be pushed to $40 million if certain incentives are reached. Even though he has youth on his side and is only 26, both the length and value of that contract is downright monstrous and potentially embarrassing for an edge rusher who’s put together just one outlier of a season in 2011 when he recorded 11.5 sacks with the Texans. But then this past season that number fell to only three sacks over 1,137 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That decline is especially glaring when we remember that opposing offensive lines were primarily worried about containing J.J. Watt on the other side (Watt had 20.5 sacks, and challenged the single-season sack record).
The most haunting reality of that contract is if Barwin repeats his 2012 season of woe next year, he’ll be paid $2 million per sack. However, before we go too much further with the outrage, it’s important to note the reported guaranteed money ($8 million), or rather the lack of it. That’s key, and it’s how the Eagles have both given Barwin incentive to produce and return to optimal performance, while protecting themselves if he sputters and fails. Guaranteed cash will always be the crucial element in any NFL contract, as it represents the true investment a team is making in a player. That overall $36 million figure will draw your eyeballs and ire, but it could be irrelevant. If he keeps sucking, Barwin would be cut and see only a small fraction of that.
What’s odd, though, is his fit. The Eagles are maybe, likely moving to a 3-4, and they have a young and budding Brandon Graham at one defensive end position, and an overpaid and perhaps fading Trent Cole at the other. Barwin can play outside linebacker, which is where he was often featured in the Texans’ defensive front. Cole, meanwhile, has never played in a 3-4. That means he’d either block Barwin at defensive end and force the Eagles to pay a backup far too much money, or Cole would be used in an unfamiliar role. Either way, they’d be overpaying someone.