PHILADELPHIA – With June 1 looming this seems like the appropriate time to take a look at the status of Derek Barnett, the much-maligned Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick whose 2022 season was derailed by a torn ACL in Week 1 against Detroit.
Few value the pass rush more than the Eagles who continue to invest heavily in the defensive front and are coming off a monster 70-sack season. Barnett was penciled in to big, albeit scaled-back, part of that last season after re-signing on a two-year deal for $14 million.
The Philadelphia defense wants to come in waves on the pass rush and Barnett was set to essentially be the 3B on the edge behind high-profile free-agent pickup Hasson Reddick, emerging defensive end Josh Sweat, and the returning Brandon Graham, who missed most of the 2021 campaign with a torn Achilles.
Despite losing Barnett early, Reddick performed at an All-Pro level and was in the conversation for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, Sweat was a Pro Bowl selection, and Graham had a career-best sack total of 11 in his age 34 season. All three cracked double-digit sacks to join defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, making the Eagles the first team in NFL history with four players each accumulating over 10 sacks.
The plan for 2023 is running it back with Reddick, Sweat, and Graham on the edge while also adding in rookie Nolan Smith, the No. 30 overall pick in April’s draft. Currently, Barnett is still under contract and on the outside, looking in at a four-man rotation.
Releasing the Tennessee product prior to June 1 would have cost Philadelphia $10,272,000 and dealing him would have accelerated $9,192,000 on the cap, per OvertheCap.com. The post-June 1 designation would lower the cap hit to $3,057,000 and a post-June 1 trade knocks it down even further than that to $1,977,000.
Barnett never lived up to the billing as the 14th overall pick in 2017, topping out at 6 ½ sacks in 2019 while also developing a reputation as an undisciplined player prone to dumb penalties.
In a league where it’s either get the quarterback or get to the quarterback, Barnett is still capable enough to be a rotational player in many cities, and Eagles GM Howie Roseman doesn’t have to be in a hurry at this point to make any kind of decision.
With most of the heavy lifting with the salary cap done for 2023, Roseman isn’t going to release Barnett because he understands the value the player could provide elsewhere, coupled with the insurance he provides in-house in case of injury.
That means things could go deep in the summer when it comes to Barnett and his status with the Eagles.
The most likely end game is Barnett playing elsewhere and Roseman bringing back a conditional Day 3 pick for the Tennessee product unless the Eagles suffer attrition and Barnett is back in the mix as one of the top four on the edge.