Connor Barwin opens up about declining production, future with Eagles

Connor Barwin opens up about declining production, future with Eagles

His salary went up, his production went down, and Connor Barwin understands that at 30 years old and with the second-lowest sack total of his career, there is going to be plenty of speculation about his future.

And he knows it’s already started.

“It bothers me that I don’t have more sacks, so I understand why it bothers other people,” Barwin said at his locker Thursday. “So it’s been a tough year.

“But I know the game is much more than just that, so I try to keep things in perspective.”

Barwin recorded 26½ sacks in three years playing in a 3-4 front under Bill Davis, sixth-most in the NFC during that span and also sixth-most among all NFL linebackers.

But with the coaching change, a new defensive coordinator and a new system, Barwin went from 3-4 left outside linebacker to a 4-3 right defensive end, and his sacks dropped to four this year, including none in the last six weeks.

With upcoming base salaries of $7.75 million and $9.25 million in 2017 and 2018 and cap figures of $7.35 million and $8.35 million, the speculation about Barwin’s future is understandable.

The Eagles would absorb only $600,000 in dead cap money if they released Barwin this offseason, and Barwin’s age — he turned 30 in October — and declining production combined with his cap number add up to a huge question mark about his future for the cap-strapped team.

Barwin said it wasn’t appropriate to talk specifics until after the season but indicated Thursday he would consider taking a pay cut to stay in Philly.

“I expect to be here,” he said. “I know it’s something everybody’s talking about. And hopefully we work something out.”

Barwin said that while he’s disappointed in his production — four sacks would be his fewest since he had a career-low three for the Texans in 2012 — at least some of it is related to his move to the right side, where he faces the opposing team’s best offensive tackle every Sunday.

“I go against the best guy every single week, so if you want to talk about lack of productivity, the last three years, I’ve been on the left, going against not the best offensive lineman,” he said.

“So there’s that big change. And hopefully looking forward, I can go back to the left side.”

Barwin said none of his coaches ever approached him and explained why he was moving from left side to right, but he has a pretty good idea why the switch was made.

“I think what happened was Vinny (Curry) became a starter after he signed his contract and Vinny played on the left with me,” he said. “I played on the left and Vinny played left 3-technique. 

"When Vinny signed that deal, he became a starter, so Vinny gets put to the left and I got bumped to the right, and then B.G. (Brandon Graham) bumps Vinny and B.G. goes to the left and then we just kind of roll with it.

“And no real competitor is going to say, ‘Hey, move me back to the left.’ You’re going to play where they put you.

“There was never any talk about it, it just kind of happened. The depth chart just kind of came.”

Barwin, a second-team All-Pro two years ago, took the switch as a challenge and never complained about it. Even though he knew his numbers would suffer.

And they have. Dramatically.

“I’d rather face guys who aren’t that good and get more sacks, if I’m going to be completely honest,” he said with a laugh. “But when we made the switch, the competitor in me … I was like, ‘Bleep, I’ll take this challenge,’ because that’s how competitors think and how you want to think.

“Even next year if I stay on the right I’ll still try to take advantage of that opportunity. But it is a whole different element.”

Sacks aren’t the only number that’s down for Barwin as a 4-3 end as opposed to a 3-4 linebacker.

In three years under Davis, including a 2014 Pro Bowl season, Barwin averaged 81 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and played an average of 66 snaps per game.

This year, he’s got 38 tackles, four tackles for loss and two pass breakups and has averaged 45 snaps per game.

“I obviously know there’s a lot of room for improvement and there’s definitely going to be growth from my first year in the defense to the next, like there should be for everybody,” Barwin said. “Like there was from my first year in Billy Davis’ 3-4 to my second year. I went from five sacks to almost 15 sacks.

“So I’m very excited about the growth that can happen from Year 1 to Year 2. There are little nuances in the defense and even the way (defensive coordinator) Jim (Schwartz) calls the game, just kind of understanding the way he calls the game and what teams are going to do.

“It’s something that I think even in the last couple weeks I’ve been a lot better at. And that takes time.”

Asked to evaluate his own play, Barwin gave a mixed response.

“Well, I think there were a couple games I’d want back that I didn’t play as good as I think I could have played,” he said. “And I would probably say that for about every year I’ve ever played in my career. There’s always one or two games you’d want back.

“But the season as a whole, I think I’ve improved as the season’s gone on, I’ve done my job for the most part, and I’m excited to see what I can do in Year 2 in this system.”

We all know how deeply ingrained Barwin is in the South Philadelphia community. His Make the World Better Foundation does incredible grassroots work, from his annual playground revitilization projects to his benefit concerts at Union Transfer to rebuilding athletic fields and rec centers in inner-city neighborhoods and much, much more.

When asked why he wants to finish his career in Philly, his first answer — said with a laugh — was: “I’ve got about $4 million in park projects that I want to be here for. I’m serious about that, too.”

Then he really did grow serious.

“I mean, really, this has become my home and you guys all know I love living in this city,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Mr. (Jeff) Lurie and my teammates that are here and the different neighborhoods that I’m involved in, the guys that have played here before me, the guys that are playing here now.

“I think it’s a great honor to play for this organization and I want to be here when they win and be a part of it.”

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Next week, when the NFL convenes for its owners meetings in Phoenix, there will be 15 proposed rule changes under consideration by the competition committee. 

While the one proposed rule change would cut regular-season overtime from 15 to 10 minutes (see story), there are 14 others up for discussion. 

Of those 15, seven were submitted by NFL teams. And of those seven, four were submitted by the Eagles

Three of the four rule proposals from the Eagles are safety related. 

Here are the four from the Eagles, per the NFL: 

1. Gives additional protections for long snappers on kick plays. 

2. Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. 

3. Expands the “crown of helmet” foul to include “hairline” part of helmet. 

4. Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

The first proposed rule would offer long snappers -- Jon Dorenbos included -- some extra protection. It would add this language to Article 6, Unnecessary Roughness: "When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap." 

The second proposed rule change is one of the proposals that has garnered the most attention. Basically, the league now allows players to leap over the line of scrimmage on kicks as long as they don't touch anyone. This new rule would completely outlaw the process of leaping over the line. 

It seems like this rule change is likely to happen. The NFLPA has previously asked for this rule to be changed. 

"So the inevitable is going to happen, and just hearing from the players association, Philly now proposing it is really in the best interest of the game," former Eagle and league football operations director Troy Vincent said on a conference call Thursday. 

The next rule does pretty much exactly what it says: it expands the area that is considered to be the "crown of the helmet." 

Here's the new language that would be added to Article 8, Initiating Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: "Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the crown or 'hairline' parts of the helmet against any part of an opponent shall be considered a foul even if the initiating player's head moves after initial contact and the majority of contact occurs with the side or front of the helmet."

Finally, the last proposal isn't a safety one. It's about replay and is pretty self-explanatory for the most part. 

The reasoning given for this rule change on the proposal: "Provides coaches with a greater opportunity to correct subjective officiating errors, but excludes those fouls that have a minimal opportunity for reversal."

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT -- especially deep into the overtime -- is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession -- a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended -- Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."