Is it a bird? is it a plane? No, it’s Derek Barnett returning to the Eagles on a two-year deal. Why? I don’t know.
The Tennessee product was drafted by the Birds in 2017 and has been very underwhelming ever since. It took him three years to learn how to properly execute a spin-move, but his tendency to magically show up at the perfect time kept him in the picture…and then Josh Sweat decided to ball out.
The picture was clear. Sweat was the future of the defensive end position and the Eagles would’ve been wise to move on from a player who drew more flags than I’ve had cups of tea. So, of course, the Eagles picked up Barnett’s option year in 2021 in a move that was equally confusing as it cost them $9.5M. Barnett then proceeded to sack the quarterback TWO whole times and register 46 tackles in what was statistically his worst ever NFL season.
From a logistical perspective, the move does kind of make sense. Barnett is still young (as has been the main counter-argument to his lackluster play every year) and the position is very light on depth. Behind Graham and Sweat sits only Tarron Jackson. The Eagles needed someone to drop into the rotation and become a solid EDGE3 for a year before potentially stepping up to fill the EDGE2 role when Sweat replaces Brandon Graham. Many assumed that would be an issue that would be resolved through the NFL Draft.
Howie Roseman appears to have other ideas. It’s really weird to bring back an edge-rusher who did very little rushing and a lot of false-starting. The Eagles would rather throw even more money at him as opposed to admitting defeat. In fairness, that did work for Brandon Graham. He was once regarded as a bust and has since become the longest-tenured athlete in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as a beloved fan favorite.
Roseman clearly sees something in Barnett to have gambled on him two years in a row. The only thing I can think of is that the contract is cheap because his play was so bad last year, that it was too good to turn down. This isn’t a move that’s going to set the world on fire, but Barnett could thrive in a reduced role and enable the Eagles to draft a premier edge rusher and line him up on that second pairing for his rookie season. It’s also probably a sign that newly-signed Hasson Reddick is going to be left to his own devices at the SAM spot.
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