Philadelphia Eagles: Connor Barwin should retire an Eagle

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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After watching the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl without him, Connor Barwin deserves an opportunity to (eventually) retire in the city he loves.

Sometimes, a marquee free agent comes to town and changes a team forever. They sign a big money deal to become the focal point of a franchise and give a team a new identity for the foreseeable future. LeBron James’ current relocation to Los Angeles comes to mind.

While these signings are great for ticket and jersey sales, they come with a lot of risks and fail just as often as they succeed. Think T.O. in 2005.

No, for a team to be good for a long time, they need to consistently find players willing to put everything they have on the line to help their team win, while also serving as a positive influence on their new community in the process.

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Connor Barwin is the textbook definition of that kind of player.

Though his wasn’t the sexiest signing of the Chip Kelly-era, or the most heavily discussed, Shady McCoy for Kiko Alonso firmly takes that cake, Barwin quietly delivered one of the best seasons of any defensive lineman the Philadelphia Eagles have had this millennium and left the City of Brotherly Love a better place than when he first came to town back in 2013.

Barwin, maybe more so than any other ex-Eagles still kicking around in the league, deserves an opportunity to finish out his career in his adoptive home.

When the Eagles decided to change things up on the defensive side of the ball and transition into a 3-4 defense under then-defensive coordinator Billy Davis, a move that clearly aged poorly, Barwin was brought in to play outside linebacker across from Trent Cole and a work-in-process Brandon Graham, and quickly assimilated into the culture both on and off the field.

And after a fairly promising freshman season with the team, highlighted by five sacks and an incredible 12 passes defended from the left outside linebacker position, Barwin burst into the national spotlight in 2014. With the intricacies of Davis’ scheme fully mastered, Barwin absolutely terrorized the quarterbacks of the NFC East to the tune of 14.5 sacks, a career high, in route to his first, and as of now only Pro Bowl appearance.

But unfortunately for those fans who purchased 98 jerseys (me), this magical season was simply unsustainable.

Though he still finished second on the team in sacks the following season, when the Eagles hired Doug Pederson, and by extension Jim Schwartz to revamp their roster going into the 2016 season, Barwin and his recently renegotiated contract became a square peg in a round hole.

After only logging five sacks over 16 starts in 2016, Barwin was released from his contract to free up over $7 million in cap space going into free agency, and quietly relocated to Los Angeles to reunite with his former coach Wade Phillips as a member of the LA Rams. While the pairing seemed like a match made in heaven on paper, as Barwin excelled under Phillips as a member of the Houston Texans from 2011-2012, he only appeared in 14 games in route to another five-sack season. Though the team reportedly expressed interest in reacquiring the now-ninth year linebacker to add some experience to their young core, he remained a free agent through much of the month of July, before ultimately taking a deal to return to the NFC East as a member of the New York Giants.

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In a deal that could be worth a much as $5 million over the next two years, Barwin will be reuniting with Pat Shurmur, Kelly’s offensive coordinator for his entire tenure in Philly, as well as Bill McGovern, his former linebacking coach in Philly for the first time in three seasons. While it’s unlikely that this reunion will return the now-31-year-old linebacker to his 2014 form, it does ensure that he’ll be able to return to a scheme he knows like the back of his hand and can help to teach to his new teammates as the Giants transition into a 3-4 scheme after decades as a 4-3 defense.

But even if Barwin does finish out his career as a member of Big Blue, to me at least, he’s always going to be a Philadelphia Eagle, and when he does decide to hang up his cleats once and for all, he deserves an opportunity to officially retire as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, especially for his contributions to the City of Brotherly Love.

While Barwin was a fantastic player over his half-decade tenure with the Eagles, his impact off the field will likely last far beyond any player currently on the team’s roster (outside of maybe Carson Wentz).

Through his Make The World Better Foundation, Barwin has revitalized a number of public parks in Philadelphia over the last five years, including Ralph Brooks Park, Smith Playground, and soon Waterloo Playground, changing the lives of countless kids in the city.

He’s also headed a number of benefit concerts to help raise money across the city over the last four years, utilizing his status as the NFL’s Biggest Hipster to bring the city, and it’s players together around some pretty amazing indie rock concerts. Whenever I’d go to a show at the Union Transfer, the Boot & Saddle, or even the Wells Fargo Center I’d always hope to run into the 10th-year linebacker and exchange pleasantries about his favorite records.

Why? Because that’s the kind of guy Barwin is.

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While most players are happy to rep their current city on the field and hightail it out-of-town when the season is over, Barwin truly assimilated himself into our fair city, truly embodying what it means to be a Philadelphian, right down to his position as the face of Septa. This, when coupled with his on the field excellence makes Barwin a perfect candidate to finish out his career in a midnight green jersey, and officially retire (when it’s time) from the game as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, even if he never plays another snap for the team.