The New York Jets suffered a cruel blow yesterday, finding out that prized DE, Carl Lawson, is out for the season with a torn Achilles. There aren’t many teams who will be willing to part ways with a starting-caliber edge rusher at this point in the season, but the Eagles may be one such franchise in what could be an aligning of the stars.
Lawson signed a three-year deal worth $45M this offseason, following a 5.5 sack season with the Bengals, ranking among the NFL’s best in terms of QB pressures. He’s the highest paid player on the roster this season, earning $14.3M, and was the lead man in what is an otherwise forgettable edge rusher rotation.
Vinny Curry will provide some help off the other side of the line and the interior rush is still rampant, but losing the presence of a true wrecking ball off the edge will hurt. Ronald Blair, who is reuniting with his old defensive coordinator and current Jets Head Coach, Robert Saleh, will see an increased role, but he’s largely been a rotational name.
If the Jets feel like they do need to negate Lawson’s absence, they need a player who they can bring in on a one-year deal and can be easily cut off at the end of the season depending on their star-man’s health. Only Olivier Vernon remains as a viable free agent option, but there’s one name in Philadelphia who might just tick the box.
Enter Derek Barnett.
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 with clear potential that has flashed this Summer. 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 highlight 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.
Now in his option year, the Eagles are paying over $10M for a player who hasn’t really lived up to the hype. For context, Ryan Kerrigan, who costs just over $3M, garnered the same sack-total as Barnett last year, while playing in 11% less of the snaps that the Tennessee product did. With Josh Sweat’s rise being far more notable, it looks as though Barnett may have been playing on borrowed time anyway.
Usually, it’d be worth keeping Barnett around for a year, but the Eagles have been experimenting using rookie DT Milton Williams off the edge and it’s been working beautifully. The explosive athlete has drawn penalties and been a consistent penetrative threat in the backfield. If the Eagles could part ways with Barnett knowing that Ryan Kerrigan can hold the fort, while affording more opportunities to a rookie with some salivating upside, why wouldn’t they?
The Jets do have some intriguing players of their own. Second-year wideout Denzel Mims already appears to have fallen out of favor somewhat due to the concerns that plagued his college tape. Someone with supreme size and traits that doesn’t yet have the ability to separate cleanly, could be an enticing project for WR coach Aaron Moorehead, who may be losing the combo of former second-round pick J.J Arcega-Whiteside and Travis Fulgham this year. Mims would fill that big-body receiver void in a trade that would surely involve other assets.
Admittedly, I was significantly lower on Mims than most people, purely because he was so raw in his game that he was bound to take a few years to develop his release and overall technique. However if he ever hit that ceiling, look out. The Eagles are in a position of luxury at wide receiver and adding a young player who has three cheap contractual years remaining to grow with Jalen Hurts and company wouldn’t exactly be the worst thing in the world, especially if it coincides with shedding a big-time cap hit, and losing very little in production because Barnett’s position has already ben reinforced.
Joe Douglas already knows what Derek Barnett brings to the table, and may be willing to ring up his old friend in Howie Roseman to see if a deal could be potentially worked out. Who’s to say that it won’t include the second-year wideout who has slipped down the depth chart at a worrying rate?
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