As great a guy as Connor Barwin is, his release was necessary for Eagles

As great a guy as Connor Barwin is, his release was necessary for Eagles

These are the moves that are hardest to make. And the moves you have to make.

I can't remember an athlete coming through town over the years who more naturally and genuinely and passionately became a Philadelphian. 

Connor Barwin's love for our city, and his tireless energy in raising money to fund projects that really made a difference in the South Philly neighborhoods within a few miles of the sports complex is unprecedented.

There's really never been anyone like him.

He didn't just talk about it, he rolled up his sleeves and organized and ran meetings and raised money and held concerts and truly made a difference in the community he lived in.

And that's rare. 

It's also totally irrelevant when it comes to trying to build a winning football team.

And that's why this business is so tough and why when you're running a football team you have to be bloodless.

You just can't let your emotions control your decisions.

And that's why today is a sad day in Eagles history but also an important day in Eagles history.

Barwin spent four seasons here, piled up 31 1/2 sacks, never missed a game and even made his first Pro Bowl in 2014 as an outside linebacker.

He also turned 30 in October, had only five sacks playing out of position at defensive end last year, and generally looked like he didn't fit into what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants to do.

By releasing Barwin Thursday morning, the Eagles cleared $7.75 million in cap room (see story). Considering they had only about $6.2 million available when the day began, that's huge.

It's tough. I guarantee you Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Jeff Lurie dreaded this day. Say what you want about them -- they're all good guys and they genuinely care about the people who come through the NovaCare Complex entrance.

But this is a team that hasn't won a playoff game in eight years, and the people running the franchise have to be focused on infusing the roster with talent and not keeping around players because they're good guys and make a difference in the community and build playgrounds.

Harsh. But true. It's a tough business, but it's a business and you can't lose sight of that.

I think this is the toughest thing for coaches and GMs to do. You build relationships, you have incredible respect for people, they play their hearts out for you, you admire them, you get to know their families ... and then you cut them.

One of the reasons the Eagles had so much success from 2000 through 2008 was Andy Reid's refusal to make roster decisions based on how popular a player was or what a good guy he was or how much of an impact he had made in Philly or how much Big Red liked him.

You have to cold-blooded. And if that means cutting ties with Troy Vincent, Brian Mitchell, Brian Westbrook, Jeremiah Trotter, Donovan McNabb or Jon Runyan, he did not hesitate.

To compete at an elite level in the NFL, you need superstars. You need playmakers. And to acquire them you need to either draft them or sign them. And to sign them you need money. Lots of it. And without moves like this, the Eagles simply would not have enough cap space to be competitive.

So it's a sad day but also an encouraging day.

Because nobody wanted to see Barwin go. Heck, I certainly didn't. Not many Eagles I can hang out with at the XPoNential Festival or chat with at their locker about the new Kurt Vile record or War on Drugs tour dates.

But if you're an Eagles fan, you have to be encouraged and maybe a little relieved to see that the Eagles are willing to make these tough decisions that they don't want to make but must make.

And this won't be the last one.

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has had a lot of time on his hands this week while sitting at home on his Kentucky ranch as his team went through optional practices in the Twin Cities.

Zimmer was under strict orders to leave the team and rest his right eye, which has needed eight surgeries to try to repair a detached retina. The lingering issues have led some to wonder if he would be forced to shorten his career.

Zimmer has heard the speculation all week long. The hard-nosed coach said he has reached out to some of those doubters personally this week.

"I'll be back shortly," Zimmer vowed in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "One eye or two, it doesn't matter. I'll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly."

Zimmer missed one game last season due to the problems with his eye . He tried to work through the issues, but said on Friday that he was told to skip this week's practices and go home to allow his eye to recover.

"It's not much fun," he said. "Usually I love it down here in my place here. But I don't love it too much this week. It was kind of a forced situation. But for the long run it's the best thing for me."

Giants: Smith trying to resurrect career
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Geno Smith didn't catch a break in his final two seasons with the New York Jets, and it seems his chances of resurrecting his career with the Giants are facing obstacles.

Not only does Smith have to beat out incumbent Josh Johnson for the backup quarterback job to Eli Manning, his prospects of making the team took another hit in the NFL draft when the Giants selected Davis Webb with their third-round draft pick.

The 26-year-old Smith doesn't seem concerned.

Speaking after the Giants organized training activities Thursday, Smith sounded confident for a player who had a promising rookie season four years ago and then regressed, in large part due to inconsistency.

"Honestly, I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone other than myself," said Smith, who has played in only three games in the past two seasons, starting one. "I am just trying to be my best every single day, focusing on trying to be perfect. I know that is a far goal to try and reach, but just trying to be perfect every day and understanding what is required of me once I step onto the field, and then trying to get it done."

Redskins: Injured Moreau final draft pick to sign
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have signed the final member of their 10-player draft class, third-round pick Fabian Moreau.

The team announced the deal Friday.

The cornerback out of UCLA tore a pectoral muscle at his pro day in March. He was projected to be a first- or second-round pick before the injury and went 81st overall to the Redskins.

Moreau says doctors told him it was a five-month recovery, putting him on track to be ready by late in the preseason. The 23-year-old was at Washington's practice facility for rookie minicamp and the first sessions of organized team activities.

Coach Jay Gruden says the team is playing by ear the injury situations of Moreau and fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson and hopes they learn the schemes for the secondary as they rehab.

NFL: Judge tosses lawsuit over cheerleader wages
SAN FRANCISCO -- A lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The suit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

"To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only `ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'" Alsup said. "The complaint must answer the basic questions of `who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'"

An email to an attorney for the 49ers cheerleader, Drexel Bradshaw, was not immediately returned. The cheerleader was only identified in the suit as "Kelsey K."

Alsup gave her an opportunity to amend the lawsuit and refile it by June 15.

The lawsuit was among a spate of legal actions in recent years accusing NFL teams of failing to pay cheerleaders for hours they spent practicing and making public appearances.

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."