Eagles are running out of time to decide what Derek Barnett’s future holds

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) looks on during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Time is ticking for the Philadelphia Eagles. The new league year begins on Wednesday at 4 PM EST and there’s a big decision that the team has to make before the bell rings. Derek Barnett is currently set to make $10.8M after the Eagles picked up his fifth-year option. That money becomes fully guaranteed when the new league year opens, but is he worth the hefty price tag?

Derek Barnett remains one of the most perplexing players on the entire roster. He’s still only 24-years-old despite entering his fifth year in the NFL and the potential is clearly there. But if you invest a first-round selection in a player, you kind of expect them to show enough to replace an aging Brandon Graham and become their heir to the EDGE1 throne in that timespan. Barnett hasn’t. Sure, he has a habit of being around the ball at the right time and making the occasional flash play, but he has a tendency to disappear deep into drives and has only recently added a spin-move to his arsenal…after four years.

Barnett’s 2020 campaign was a frustrating one. 5.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, and 34 tackles summarize a season that could have and should have been so much more given the fact that he entered the offseason fully healthy for the first time in his career.

What doesn’t help is that Josh Sweat, a former fourth-round pick, had an absolutely blistering 2020 campaign, amassing 6 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 38 tackles, despite playing in 114 less snaps than the Tennessee product.

There is no way that Barnett is worth the $10M cap hit, but what options do the Eagles have? Cutting him would free up the entire sum but that doesn’t seem like a logical option when he should have plenty of suitors in the trade market. But trades take time and the Eagles need cap space now.

The reported Brandon Graham extension should send the Eagles under the cap by a total of around $2M. This is the latest in what has become a long line of restructures to try and lift what was close to a $70M debt at the beginning of the offseason. It’s entirely possible that the team is making these moves in order to avoid having to part ways with Barnett and remain intent on letting him play out his fifth-year option…which wouldn’t make much sense, but it is the Eagles after all.

There was interest in Barnett’s services at the trade deadline last year, but the Eagles stood firm, clearly showing a reluctance to part ways with their former first-round pick. A contract extension would make the most sense here. it would give Barnett some long-term security and of course, reduce his daunting cap hit. According to Over The Cap, the Eagles could save around $7M by extending Barnett.

With his $10M salary becoming fully guaranteed in a little over 48 hours, facilitating trade or deciding which path to take has to be a priority. They could always work a trade or restructure later on, but $10M is a big deal when discussing a team that is fighting for salary cap survival. Having to go above and beyond and mortgage future volatility for the sake of short-term stability seems illogical when swinging the sword in Barnett’s direction does the same job and may even keep him around in the process.

If the Eagles still believe in Derek Barnett and are still reluctant to trade him, then a new contract makes sense here. It doesn’t really matter what decision is made, so long as there is a decision that’s made and it comes before the beginning of the new league year. If that call is to let him play out his fifth-year option, however, it may only hurt them in the long run as dummy years, voidable years, and prorated bonuses will continue to plague the teams’ biggest contracts just to facilitate one year of an extortionately priced defensive end.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire