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.”

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called.

After watching film of the decisive play in the Steelers' 18-16 playoff victory, Reid said Monday that "I don't want to be fined any money, but I'd lean a different way."

Fisher appeared to hook Steelers pass rusher James Harrison on the conversion attempt with less than 3 minutes left in the game.

But the play was not cut-and-dried: Harrison dipped especially low and may have been losing his balance, and he likely would not have gotten to the quarterback anyway.

Still, the flag negated the successful 2-point conversion. And when the Chiefs tried again from the 12-yard line, Alex Smith's throw fell incomplete and the Steelers were able to run out the clock.

PATRIOTS: McDaniels staying on as OC
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interview with the San Francisco 49ers but says for now he will remain in New England.

He said during a conference call Monday that the decision was what's "best for my family and myself" and that he will stay with the Patriots to focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the season "however it turns out."

McDaniels, who was a head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, interviewed with the 49ers during the Patriots' bye to open the playoffs. He also interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both McDaniels and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have been candidates for teams with open head coaching jobs this offseason after helping lead the Patriots to 14-2 regular season.

New England beat the Houston Texans 34-16 in the divisional round and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's AFC championship game.

SEAHAWKS: Carroll says Sherman played with MCL injury
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on his radio show Monday morning that cornerback Richard Sherman played the second half of the season with an MCL injury in his knee.

Carroll told KIRO-AM that Sherman's injury was significant and it was "stressful" for Sherman to play with the injury.

Carroll did not specify which knee was injured, but said it was similar to Russell Wilson's sprained MCL suffered early in the season in that Sherman could play with the injury.

Sherman was not listed on any injury/practice report this season with a knee injury.

Any practices he missed were listed with the "NIR" -- not injury related -- designation with the exception of Week 12 against Tampa Bay when he was listed with an ankle injury.

Carroll said he had a "big meeting" with Sherman in regards to a tumultuous season for the cornerback that included two sideline blowups during games. "He has some regrets," Carroll said.

TITANS: Former Temple coach Jackson hired as WR coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have hired Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach and Craig Aukerman as assistant special teams coach.

The Titans announced the moves Monday.

Jackson joins the Titans from Temple where he was passing game coordinator this past season and wide receivers coach the past two seasons. Jackson also coached at North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Akron and Western Illinois.

Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie also coached Jackson when he was a wide receiver for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Aukerman spent the past four seasons coaching the Chargers' special teams, the most recent as special teams coordinator, and has coached with the Jaguars and Broncos. He also coached at Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Western Kentucky and Findlay.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 1: Nelson Agholor to Kenjon Barner

Eagles Stay or Go Part 1: Nelson Agholor to Kenjon Barner

In the first of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 1 is Nelson Agholor to Kenjon Barner.

Nelson Agholor
Cap hit: $2.13M

Roob: The first one is one of the most intriguing ones. It’s easy to just say, “Get rid of all the receivers except Jordan Matthews and start over!” And tempting, too. But the real world doesn’t work like that. Agholor would count a couple million more against the cap if the Eagles release him than if they keep him, so that’s one compelling reason to give him another year to try to find his way. And then there’s the simple fact that you can’t add four new wide receivers in one cap-strapped offseason, so somebody other than Matthews has to stay. And the biggest reason to keep Agholor around for another year is simply because somewhere lurking inside there may be a capable NFL wide receiver and the Eagles need to be absolutely sure a former first-round pick isn’t going to help them before cutting him loose so he can go to New England and catch 88 passes for 1,373 yards and make a Pro Bowl and win a Super Bowl ring. Maybe with a new position coach it will click in Year 3. I doubt it, but the Eagles have to find out. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: You guys aren’t going to like this, but Agholor is going to be an Eagle in 2017. No, he probably doesn’t deserve it and has been a complete disaster of a first-round pick, but it would actually cost the Eagles more to cut him than it would to keep him on the team thanks to the way these rookie deals are structured. Now, the Eagles obviously need to upgrade the receiver position, so even while Agholor will be back for the 2017 season, he shouldn’t have the same starter-type role. If he does, the Eagles have done a terrible job at upgrading one of their worst positions. After two years, it really doesn’t look like Agholor will ever play up to his first-round draft status. Now, it’s about trying to get something out of him, making him at least a competent backup. 

Verdict: STAYS

Beau Allen
Cap hit: $705K

Roob: Allen played 40 percent of the defensive snaps this year as the third defensive tackle, and he played pretty well. Nothing spectacular, but pretty steady. Depending on what happens with Bennie Logan in free agency, Allen could be asked to start next year, and he can probably handle it. The Eagles would still need a third D-tackle to rotate in there, and I’d be careful about increasing Allen’s snap count too much beyond 50 percent. But he’s a good effort guy who's durable, solid and cheap. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There was clearly a dropoff this year when Bennie Logan went down and Allen came in to replace him. Logan is a good pass rusher and a good run stuffer. Allen doesn’t have the same impact as a pass rusher. But he still played well in 2016 and there’s no reason to get rid of him now, especially with how little he gets paid. If Logan doesn’t return, there’s a decent chance Allen will be a starter. 

Verdict: STAYS

Josh Andrews
Cap hit: $615K

Roob: Andrews is going into his fourth NFL season and has never played a snap on the offensive line. He must have something going for him to stick around under two head coaches without playing a snap. The Eagles have some depth in the interior of the offensive line, but Andrews is a Jeff Stoutland favorite, and I’m going to guess he keeps him around for another year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Andrews has been with the Eagles for a while now and still hasn’t played a role on offense. The team seems to really like him, but he was only active this year when other injuries came up. I think the Eagles continue to draft and bring in new linemen.

Verdict: GOES

Rasheed Bailey

Roob: Bailey’s a great kid with a great story, a Philly native, played Division III ball at Delaware Valley College in nearby Doylestown. I’d love to see him make it, but the Eagles need real change at wide receiver, a genuine infusion of speed, size and ability, and Bailey just isn’t the kind of upgrade the Eagles need. Hope I’m wrong. I’d love to see the kid come out of nowhere and be a player, but the odds are overwhelmingly against him. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This spring, Bailey and Paul Turner should be on the same football field, which will make the city implode, so there’s no point to even continuing this list. Seriously, though, Bailey probably wouldn’t have been any worse than some of the Eagles’ wideouts this year. Still, he has an uphill battle ahead of him. 

Verdict: GOES

Allen Barbre
Cap hit: $1.95M

Roob: Barbre turns 33 this offseason, but he comes fairly cheap. He can play guard or tackle, and he seems to be another Stoutland favorite. I don’t want Barbre to be a starter next year. The Eagles need to get younger, stronger and more athletic up front. Depending on what happens with Jason Kelce, I’d expect Isaac Seumalo to start somewhere – either center or left guard. But I’m fine keeping Barbre around as a versatile backup who can fill in anywhere but center. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: The Eagles could choose to cut Barbre and save $1.7 million, but it’s probably not worth doing it for that little bit of money. He's not nearly as good at tackle but he can play guard and his versatility is something NFL coaches really love. Barbre should be back next season, but not necessarily as a starter. Keep him around to push Isaac Seumalo, but eventually Seumalo should be able to take over the left guard spot. 

Verdict: STAYS

Kenjon Barner
Restricted free agent

Roob: Barner is a strange case. He made plays every time he got a chance, but he rarely got a chance. And the further along into the season we got, the fewer chances he got. Barner clearly has talent, and the Eagles clearly need to rebuild the running back position, but it sure seems like the coaches don’t like Barner. Heck, he was inactive against the Redskins a week after a 61-yard kickoff return. Barner averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 30.8 yards per kickoff return on a team with very few weapons, yet the coaches seemed to go out of their way to not play him. He was only the seventh NFL player since 1980 to average 4.8 yards per carry and over 30 yards per kick return. It’s obvious he can play. It’s equally obvious the Eagles have no interest in keeping him. 

Verdict: GOES 

Dave: Barner has barely seen the field over the last two years with the Eagles and during that time, the team could have really used a new running back. While many fans look at Barner and wonder why he hasn’t gotten more of an opportunity, it’s become clear that this coaching staff just doesn’t think all that much of him. I expect the Eagles to place a right of first refusal (lowest) tender on the restricted free agent, but he’d then have to fight his way onto the team and I’m not so sure about his chances. 

Verdict: GOES