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Rating the Rumor: Eagles could trade Connor Barwin

Rating the Rumor: Eagles could trade Connor Barwin

The Eagles are currently $10.6 million under the NFL salary cap, but stand to almost double that figure if they dump defensive end Connor Barwin. That doesn’t necessarily mean releasing Barwin, either, at least not if a trade market emerges, as Mark Eckel for NJ.com suggests.

Some weeks back, Eckel reported there will be a handful of suitors for Barwin if the 2014 Pro Bowl selection is on the block.

One would think the Eagles would be open to the idea. At present, Barwin is set to take up $8.35 million in cap room for 2017, $7.75 million of which can be converted to savings in the event of a trade or his release. That’s a lot of money for a 30-year-old player who struggled with a position change last season, recording 34 tackles, 5.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble.

Another alternative might be to restructure Barwin’s contract, an idea the eight-year veteran seemed open to at one point. Yet what even is his value to the Eagles? To put into perspective how ineffective Barwin was after the move to defensive end and a 4-3 alignment, he graded 31st out of 32 qualifying players in pass-rush productivity. Expanded to include the entire league, teammate and noted draft bust Marcus Smith fared better.

As much as Barwin might like to stay, it’s unclear whether that’s in the Eagles’ best interests, even at a reduced price. Moving on makes sense.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of market there will be for Barwin’s services. Sure, if he were a free agent, numerous teams would inquire, as Eckel’s source suggests. As far as a trade, though, it’s difficult to envision there being much of a market.

Whether Barwin is a better fit for a 3-4 defense or not, there are a combination of factors working against him. His lack of production in the Eagles’ scheme in 2016 is not completely irrelevant, especially given his age. In fact, $7.75 million is expensive for Barwin regardless.

Barwin earned a big raise after racking up a career high 14.5 sacks and generally being one of the most disruptive edge defenders in the NFL in 2014. Yet in his other three seasons with the Eagles, he has 17.0 sacks total. While rushing the passer isn’t all Barwin does – or even what he’s best at – that’s the ability teams are typically willing to pay the most for.

There’s one more potential issue with a trade. The Eagles might want that $7.75 million in cap space as soon as possible, at least as long as they intend to do anything significant in free agency. That means the club can’t necessarily afford to hang on to Barwin and dangle him in the hopes another team wants to trade a late-round pick for an aging player with a steep price tag.

Is Barwin going to be a coveted player this offseason? Absolutely, and he’ll perform well in the right situation. Could a trade theoretically get done along with a restructured contract? That might be the only way it happens.

There are a lot of moving parts here, and with free agency set to open on March 9, not a great deal of time remaining to get all of this done. Just because a player will draw a lot of interest as a free agent doesn’t mean teams will be lining up to make a trade, and the Eagles might be best served to cut the cord quickly and get cash on hand.

Rating the Rumor: Plausible, but logistically problematic

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch-of-the-year at Junior League World Series

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USA Today Images

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch-of-the-year at Junior League World Series

Sunday gave us the catch-of-the-year. And it didn't come from MLB, or the minors, but from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania's Jack Regenye in the Junior League World Series.

Just take a look at this. Then watch it again and again, trying to figure out how this is possible. 

After being initially ruled an out, the umps reversed the call, calling it a home run. After more deliberation, it was finally ruled an out because rules be damned, when a catch is that good, you have to count it.

Regenye's Junior League team (ages 13-14) went on to lose to Chinese Taipei, 12-1. 

With Odubel Herrera on the DL, maybe the Phils should give Regenye a call.

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Right when the Eagles get finished plugging one potential hole, another springs up.

For months, cornerback was considered by far the greatest weakness on the Eagles' roster, but Howie Roseman appears to have taken care of that with the trade for Ronald Darby. Now, all of a sudden, the Eagles' secondary has the potential to be a strength in 2017.

Yet, just as the plan at corner is beginning to take shape, another concern is emerging halfway through the preseason, at a position many fans thought Roseman solidified in May. Running back looks like it could quickly become a serious problem for the Eagles if it hasn’t reached that point already.

It’s only preseason, and the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, but LeGarrette Blount has nine carries for 17 yards with a fumble in two games. Fifth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey – who the coaching staff seemed enamored with this spring — has 14 total touches for 34 yards. After a strong start at training camp, Wendell Smallwood has yet to play in an exhibition game due to a hamstring injury. And by now, everybody is aware 34-year-old Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

The best any running back has looked in exhibition games is undrafted rookie Corey Clement, by far. Whether that’s a testament to his development or a commentary on the state of the backfield is a matter of perspective.

Regardless, you could’ve seen this mess coming from a mile away.

The Blount signing was met with tremendous enthusiasm when it really should’ve been met with tremendous skepticism. Though he rushed for 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns in 2016, Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, sat by in free agency as the Patriots moved to replace him, and turns 31 in December. He’s never been a threat as a receiver, and even his gaudy numbers last season with the Super Bowl champions were an outlier compared to the rest of his career.

The reality is Blount is not a mortal lock to make the Eagles' roster. He likely will, because he still has value in short yardage and at the goal line, and most of all, because the competition hasn’t made enough of a push. However, releasing Blount would only cost the Eagles $400,000 against the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com, while his age and the limitations of his skill set are worth reiterating.

The question is what then?

While the Eagles have toyed with getting Pumphrey and Sproles on the field at the same time, projections as to how prevalent those designer packages would be always felt ambitious as well. Listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Pumphrey has not looked like an NFL-ready player through two games. Even if he is ready to contribute, that is not an offense designed with running the football in mind.

The Eagles’ ability to let Blount go would seem to hinge almost solely on Smallwood. Of course, it was an unwillingness to rely on a second-year player with 83 touches that caused the club to seek veteran help in the first place.

Smallwood is not an unimpressive prospect. A fifth-round draft pick from West Virginia a year ago, Smallwood has the size and athletic ability to handle the bulk of the work. He was running with authority in camp. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, which is his biggest shortcoming at this point, aside from inexperience. It’s impossible to tell whether Smallwood is in line to finish with the most touches in this backfield (regardless of Blount’s presence) or if he’s fighting for his job.

Clement is the bright spot in all of this and arrives as a more polished pass protector than Smallwood was as a rookie. Seeing as inexperience was one of the primary reasons the Eagles weren’t willing to entrust Smallwood as the primary ball carrier, it’s difficult to imagine Clement could be the guy the in September.

Again, some of the culpability for Blount’s struggles falls on the offensive line. Some. Blount’s last season in New England was far from the norm, and for most of his eight-year career, he’s been purely a situational player. Even under optimal circumstances, expecting him to recreate last season’s numbers, or come close, never made much sense.

And while it would be easy to chalk up the pitiful ground attack as a symptom of the preseason, the fact is these games have exposed a problem that’s been lurking beneath the surface. Blount is old and not an ideal fit for the Eagles' offense. Pumphrey is an undersized rookie. Sproles is Sproles. Smallwood is a mystery.

Up until a week ago, everybody was worried about the cornerbacks. Before that, it was the wide receivers, until the Eagles made significant investments in talent over the offseason. All along, there’s been an underrated need at running back, or at the very least, an uncertainty.

Try as he might, Roseman can’t seem to find a solution for every hole on the roster — and it’s beginning to look like running back is the spot the Eagles might spring a leak.