When many of us speculated how the Eagles would get under the cap this offseason, one of the more popular moves suggested was signing former first round pick Derek Barnett to an extension, or cutting him to save approximately $10 million in cap space.
With the start of the new league year coming and going, the Eagles opted to do neither, fully guaranteeing Barnett’s $10 million for 2021. The team can still sign Barnett to an extension, which would lower his cap hit this season. But as it stands, the Birds will owe Barnett $10 million this season.
Barnett likely wanted to see how the pass rusher market was going to shape out before committing to any kind of long-term deal.
When the Lions re-signed defensive end Romeo Okwara, someone with similar stats to Barnett’s, at $13 million per year, it shifted the market in Barnett’s favor. Now, he likely won’t sign any extension that doesn’t pay him by that standard.
While Barnett hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations since entering the league in 2017, he was still in the top-half of the league in pass rushing production last season. He ranked 36th out of 121 edge rushers in pass rushing productivity in 2020 and finished with 5.5 sacks.
At just 24 years old, Barnett still has plenty of time to become a formidable, more consistent pass rusher in this league. Not very often do you see a player go through four years in the NFL and still be under the age of 25. And while his potential hasn’t been fully realized just yet, Barnett is one of the few young defensive players on the roster who actually presents some upside.
Although, the last time the Eagles opted to let one of their players play out their fifth-year option on a rookie deal, it ended horribly. Nelson Agholor played out the 2019 season with about $9 million guaranteed, and he finished the season with just 39 catches for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Here’s the reality of the situation: while finding an improvement over Barnett would be the ideal outcome, the Eagles just aren’t in a position to do so this offseason. If they ended up cutting Barnett and saving $10 million, that money would have gone to a defensive end with a similar skillset. It may have been a marginal improvement over Barnett, but nothing to write home about.
Sitting at No. 6 overall in the upcoming draft, the Eagles are more than likely going to take one of the top tier wide receiver prospects. There may not be a defensive end truly worthy of the sixth overall selection, and the Eagles shouldn’t reach for a need there. Not to mention, wide receiver is a bigger need for this team regardless.
Maybe Barnett flashes some more potential and lands a long-term extension with the Eagles next offseason. Perhaps his skillset can be put to better use in Jonathan Gannon’s new defensive scheme. All of that is yet to be seen.
At the end of the day, it’s always better to have more depth at defensive end position. Barnett provides that without a doubt.