The Eagles were forced to exercise the fifth-year option Derek Barnett’s contract. Is he worth the time and money?
Barnett, the fourth-year edge rusher out of Tennessee, has enjoyed a roller-coaster ride to start his NFL career. He started at the pinnacle — five sacks in 15 games as a rookie, including that epic game-saving fumble recovery in Super Bowl LII — but the ride back down has been filled with potholes.
Barnett missed 10 games in 2018 after hurting his shoulder and undergoing season-ending surgery. Lost year. Then, he missed two games in 2019 with a lingering ankle injury. Barnett still managed to finish the campaign with a career-high 6.5 sacks but ruffled some feathers with on-the-field antics.
For example, the 23-year-old lowered the boom on the Packers’ Jamaal Williams in Week 4. He was fined $28,075 by the NFL for the dirty helmet-to-helmet hit. Then, Barnett received a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness in Week 5 versus the Jets for lunging at Alex Lewis’ knees. Another illegal shot.
He was also called for unnecessary roughness in Week 2 when he took out Falcons guard Jamon Brown on a blind-side block. Not quite as dirty, but still dirty.
That made three questionable hits in the span of five weeks. He finished with eight penalties (65 yards) on the year. But, is he a dirty player?
“Derek’s the type of guy who is going to play through the whistle,” former Eagles defensive line coach Phillip Daniels told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that goes out there to try to hurt anybody. He’s just doing his job and playing through the whistle.”
Breaking Down Barnett’s Contract Situation
There is a case to be made for Derek Barnett being a bust. Yes, he has racked up 14 sacks in three seasons (35 games). That is a good amount of production in limited snaps. Remember, the 259-pounder was the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Barnett inked a four-year contract worth $12.85 million, plus a $7.5 million signing bonus. He’ll earn approximately $2.2 million in base salary in 2020 ($4.1 million cap hit). The Eagles will now pay him $10 million for 2021 by virtue of picking up his fifth-year option. (Editor’s note: the team did the same thing last year when they picked up Nelson Agholor’s option at $9.4 million).
So, is it enough production? Is he worth the money?
The answer has to be yes, for no other reason than the Eagles have no depth at defensive end. Thay failed to address the position in this year’s draft when they decided not to trade up for LSU pass-rusher K’Lavon Chaisson in the first round and then passed on Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa in the second round. They may have gotten good value instead of those guys — depending on your opinion of Jalen Hurts — but they left the cupboard bare at defensive end.
Eagles’ Depth Chart at Defensive End for 2020
Derek Barnett will turn 24 years old in June. He’s very young and very talented. His 33 career sacks at the University of Tennesse is a school record, a mark he usurped from the legendary Reggie White (32) in 2016.
Barnett now enters the 2020 season as a cornerstone on the defensive line, along with veterans Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox. Third-year end Josh Sweat will look to build off a promising four-sack campaign in 2019, with Daeshon Hall and Joe Ostman and Shareef Miller left as the great unknowns. The Eagles let one member of the Super Bowl team, Vinny Curry, leave in free agency. No one has yet signed him.
Bottom line, the Eagles had no other choice when it came to Barnett. They had to invest $10 million in the future, on the premise that he sheds the bust label and lives up to his first-round status. That seems to be a common theme these days in Philadelphia.