Eagles Stay or Go Part 2: Connor Barwin to Terrence Brooks

Eagles Stay or Go Part 2: Connor Barwin to Terrence Brooks

In the second 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 2 is Barwin to Brooks. 

Connor Barwin
Cap hit: $8.35M

Roob: Not only is Barwin a massive force in the community, he’s also the only guy on the team I can talk music with. Who else am I going to hang out with at a War on Drugs gig? And he’s really been a terrific Eagle. A Pro Bowler a couple years ago, a tremendous locker room guy, durable, dependable, productive. All that said, Barwin will go, and that’s what makes this such a tough business. Barwin just does not fit in this 4-3 defense, and at 30 years old and with an $8.35 million cap figure, it doesn’t make sense to keep him when releasing him will create only $600,000 in dead money. Barwin has said he’s open to taking a pay cut, and if the Eagles and Barwin can make the numbers work, I’m fine with keeping him around as a rotational guy with a far lower cap figure. Maybe he would be more productive in a second year in this defense. But otherwise, this really seems to be one of those cases where you have to put your emotions aside and do what’s best long-term. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: We’re starting off today with a tough one. One of the toughest names we’ll encounter throughout this 12-day journey. If the Eagles just decided to cut Barwin, they would save $7.75 million. That’s a ton of money, especially for a team that could desperately use any cap space it can find. Barwin, for his part, has repeatedly made it known that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin the Eagles next year. I’m just not sure it makes sense, even with a pay cut. The Eagles have Vinny Curry making a ton of money waiting to play, and Barwin could fit better in a different defense. It’s not often a mayor of a city goes to bat for a player. That’s how much Barwin means to the community. But it just doesn’t make football sense or business sense to keep him, which is a shame.  

Verdict: GOES

Nigel Bradham
Cap hit: $4.25M

Roob: Bradham played fairly well this year, although his performance tailed off a bit in December. But he’s a guy you definitely want to keep around. Still young, contract not prohibitive. The only possible issue with Bradham is a potential NFL suspension following his two legal issues in Florida last year. But Bradham is solid at a position the Eagles have very little depth. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: If you can look past Bradham’s “dumbass” off-the-field incidents in his first year with the Eagles, he played pretty well. No, he’s not a Pro Bowler, but at the price of his two-year deal, he was a pretty good value. He played 97 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2016. He led the team in combined tackles with 102 and had two sacks. He has just one year left on his contract, so it might actually be time to think about extending him once his legal issues are cleared up. 

Verdict: STAYS

Bryan Braman
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Braman, an unrestricted free agent, is still a decent special teams player, although, at nearly 30 years old, not as productive as he once was. The problem is although he’s listed as a defensive end, he’s really not a defensive end except in a dire emergency. He really doesn't have a position. As a seven-year veteran, Braman’s minimum base salary would be fairly high next year — $900,000. If I were the Eagles, I’d replace Braman with a young outside linebacker — a late-round draft pick or undrafted rookie — who can play special teams at a high level but can also fill in on defense and is cheaper. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is another tough one. Braman had a cap hit near $1 million in 2016, the last year of his contract. The big question here is, do the Eagles want to invest in an aging special teamer or try to replace him with someone younger and possibly cheaper? That said, Braman is a beast on special teams and the Eagles have put plenty of resources into their special teams units. I think they can figure something out. 

Verdict: STAYS

Brandon Brooks
Cap hit: $7.2M

Roob: As long as his stomach ailments are under control, Brooks isn’t going anywhere. He was solid in his first year as an Eagle ... when he was able to play. Hopefully, Brooks has put this all behind him, and he’s able to be there for his team at right guard for 16 games next year. Is Brooks worth $40 million over five years? Probably not. He’s above average, but not a superstar. But with that contract, he’ll be here at least through 2018. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When Brooks has been on the field, he’s been really good. The Eagles put a lot of money into improving their guard positions from a disastrous 2015 and Brooks looks like the real deal. According to ProFootballFocus, Brooks was the fourth-best offensive guard in football. He allowed just one sack and two quarterback hits all year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Ron Brooks
Cap hit: $2.1M

Roob: Honestly, I still think Brooks is best as a special teamer with minimal responsibilities on defense. Jim Schwartz, who coached Brooks with the Bills, feels otherwise and believes Brooks can be a capable slot corner. So he’ll be here. I just would like to see the Eagles upgrade across the secondary. Including at the slot. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s easy to say get rid of all the corners and start over, but it’s not that easy to actually do. Brooks was actually having a pretty decent season before an injury ended his 2016 season early. If Nolan Carroll isn’t back, and if Leodis McKelvin gets cut (I think it’s likely), it would be smart for the Eagles to keep Brooks. He doesn’t cost a whole lot, and when he got hurt in 2016, it completely changed the defense because it forced Malcolm Jenkins into the slot. 

Verdict: STAYS

Terrence Brooks
Cap hit: $705K

Roob: His interception clinched the Eagles’ only real win the last month and a half of the season, but Brooks’ main role here will remain on special teams, and he’s very good. But then again, it’s not like the Eagles have a bunch of young safeties to develop, so maybe Brooks can find a bigger role given time to develop. Heck, he made one huge game-clinching play, and that's more than a lot of people on this team.  

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Brooks was once a third-round pick of the Ravens in 2014, so it’s probable that Joe Douglas had a role in drafting him. With the Eagles, he didn’t get to play defense for most of the year, relegated instead to a special teams role. He was very good in that role. With a full training camp, he’ll get to prove he can play on defense too. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles had a top-10 offensive line in 2016, PFF says

Eagles had a top-10 offensive line in 2016, PFF says

In the deep corner of the Eagles' locker room, the offensive linemen stalls were placed in the order they were expected to play: Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson. 

They lined up that way to start a game just five times in 2016. 

Despite a 10-game suspension and eventually playing their fifth option at right tackle at one point in the season, the Eagles' offensive line was a relative strength in 2016. In fact, ProFootballFocus ranked their O-line as the eighth-best in the NFL. 

Here's what PFF said about the unit: 

"The Eagles' line would have been far higher on this list if RT Lane Johnson could avoid getting himself suspended. Johnson is arguably the game’s best right tackle but was suspended for 10 games, forcing the team to use fifth round rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Allen Barbre and then Matt Tobin at right tackle as injuries prevented a settled unit.

"New import Brandon Brooks was excellent in his first season with the Eagles, allowing just one sack all season at guard and narrowly missing out on a spot on the PFF All-Pro team.

"Between injury and suspension, the Eagles were disrupted pretty significantly up front, and this unit has the potential to be better than they showed overall this year."

PFF gave Jason Peters the highest grade of all the Eagles' linemen (88.3), which put him at No. 7 among tackles. Peters also had the top pass-blocking grade, and Johnson had the top run-blocking grade. 

But aside from the starters, the real reason the Eagles were able to stay afloat on the O-line and the reason Carson Wentz was able to remain alive in 2016 was thanks to the play of their backup offensive linemen. Stefen Wisniewski came to town on a one-year deal and proved to be a really valuable free-agent signing. 

And rookies Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo would have sat all year had things gone well. Instead, they each played a significant role in the season. Vaitai got over his disastrous first start and settled in, while Seumalo played six different positions during the year. 

Brooks was obviously the big free-agent acquisition and he played really well this year. He did miss the two games while he battled and learned about his anxiety issues, but when he was on the field he was impressive. 

Kelce and Peters were the only two players on the line to start all 16 games. Kelce didn't miss a snap for the second straight season. 

All five of the Eagles' starting offensive linemen are under contract for next season if they want to keep the unit intact. 

As for the PFF list, the Cowboys actually ranked No. 2, just behind the Tennessee Titans. The Titans' top-ranked lineman was right tackle Jack Conklin from Michigan State. There was a time when it seemed like Conklin would be an option for the Eagles in the first round at either pick No. 13 or 8. 

Meanwhile, in the NFC East, Washington was one spot ahead of the Eagles at No. 7, while the Giants came in at No. 20. 

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, OG: An embarrassment of riches

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, OG: An embarrassment of riches

Two offseasons ago, starting offensive guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were cut by the Eagles in the same offseason, with no real plan to replace either one of them. After years of neglecting the position in the draft, the club was down to a couple of journeymen and some projects that weren't really working out. Allen Barbre. Andrew Gardner. Dennis Kelly. Matt Tobin.

Yet remarkably enough, guard has rapidly become an area of great strength for the Eagles, thanks to a renewed interest in the position. Barbre surprisingly panned out, which certainly helped speed up the rebuild, while the front office went out and signed veterans Brandon Brooks and Stefan Wisniewski, then invested a third-round draft pick in Isaac Seumoalo.

The best part: three of those four players are under contract for 2017, and two of them carry a cap hit under $2 million. Even if the Eagles do nothing, they are in great shape here.

At the very least, a decision must be made on Wisniewski, who is set to become a free agent again — that is assuming he doesn't make it for them. Teams weren't exactly beating down Wisniewski's door last offseason, which is why the Eagles were able to swoop in with a one-year deal, but it's a little strange. He's a solid interior lineman that can also play center and has five years of starting experience in the NFL. You would think he can fill a need somewhere.

If the Eagles can have Wisniewski back as a reserve, it might be a no-brainer. He doubles as a high-quality backup to Jason Kelce, plus Barbre has only the upcoming season remaining on his deal and is getting up there in years. Cost becomes an issue, as Wisniewski did not come cheap, but with six starts in 2016, there was some bang for the buck.

Or, if the Eagles really wanted to be competitve, they could accelerate Barbre's demise and entice Wisniewski with the promise of more work. The club stands to save all but $150,000 on the final year of Barbre's contract if he were to get the axe or is traded, money that could be put toward the younger alternative. That potentially opens up a job for Wisniewski at left guard, although Seumalo obviously is in the mix as well.

There's a reasonable possibility Wisniewski generates more interest on the open market this time around, so with Brooks locked in at right guard and Seumalo waiting in the wings, the Eagles wouldn't be a very attractive option. That's a nice problem to have, though.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS UNDER CONTRACT

Brandon Brooks
Age: 28*
Cap Number: $7,200,000

Money well spent. According to Pro Football Focus, Brooks scored the fifth-highest cumulative overall grade of any offensive guard in the NFL in 2016. Yet in terms of money, eight guards currently carry a higher cap hit for next season, so while he came at a high price, Brooks is paying dividends thus far. There is the matter of Brooks unexpectedly missing two games with issues related to anxiety, but he vowed to get that squared away, so hopefully it's not a problem going forward. As long as he's healthy, Brooks was quietly the best free-agent addition by the Eagles in 2016, a 6-foot-5, 335-pound mauler who should be around for a long time.

Allen Barbre
Age: 33*
Cap Number: $1,950,000

Barbre doubles as a swing tackle, starting three games at right tackle in '16, though he's much better inside. Still, that versatility alone might be enough to give the Eagles pause about about trying to save $1.8 million this offseason. As it turns out, Barbre is actually a pretty good guard, too, earning the 22nd-highest cumulative grade from Pro Football Focus for this past season. With all of that in mind, a case could be made the Eagles are getting a steal here. The real question is whether they should think about extending his contract, although that might be unnecessary with Seumalo in the fold.

Isaac Seumalo
Age: 24*
Cap Number: $764,966

Barbre isn't the only person who can kick out to tackle in a pinch. Brooks has done it in the past as a member of the Texans, and Seumalo lined up on the outside just this year. The rookie didn't embarrass himself, either, no matter what position he was playing. There's little question the Eagles view Seumalo as the left guard of the future, which could be 2017 if they let Wisniewski walk and part ways with Barbre as well. One departure might happen, but probably not both, as it would unnecessarily create a depth issue at guard. Still, the franchise has to be thinking very highly of Seumalo right now, so much so that you wonder if he'll get a chance to compete for a starting job even assuming Barbre remains.

Dillon Gordon
Age: 24*
Cap Number: $540,000

An undrafted free agent out of LSU, Gordon initially made the 53-man roster out of training camp, indicating the Eagles really liked him and wanted to protect him from the first run of waiver-wire pickups. He was eventually moved to the practice squad, then reactivated at the end of the season once injuries mounted, seeing the field for a grand total of two snaps. While listed at 6-4, 322 pounds, Gordon seems smaller than that, but maybe that's because he's so agile. Coach Doug Pederson was giving him a look as a part-time fullback during camp.

Darrell Greene
Age: 25*

Greene reportedly received a rather large bonus to sign with the Eagles as a rookie out of San Diego State, though wound up being passed on the depth chart by Gordon. Still, Greene was retained on the scout team and signed a future contract at the conclusion of the season, so he's being viewed as a prospect. Obviously, the front office will add more competition, but between the two of these guys, they can afford to lose a veteran.

EXPIRING CONTRACTS

Stefan Wisniewski
Age: 28*
2016 Cap Number: $2,760,000

Wisniewski had a higher cap hit as a backup in '16 than Barbre did as a starter, which is yet another complicating factor in a potential re-signing. The idea initially was Wisniewski would battle for the job, but a competition never materialized, and he became a highly paid reserve instead. Now if there are injuries, particularly to Kelce at center, he quickly becomes worth every penny, and he was. Regardless, the debate will be taken out of the Eagles' hands if Wisniewski catches on as a starter somewhere. Kind of a shame, but this is a situation where you probably can't keep everybody.

* Age as of 12/31/17