Philadelphia Eagles: How Josh Sweat’s extension affects Derek Barnett

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

On Saturday, September 18th, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Josh Sweat to a three-year extension worth $40 million.

The deal, the richest deal handed out by Howie Roseman to a defensive end since Brandon Graham signed an identical deal back in 2019, locks Sweat into the Eagles’ future until 2024, when he’ll still only be 27 years old.

Is the deal a good one? I guess it depends on how Sweat plays moving forward. He’s certainly gotten consistently better since joining the Eagles’ regular rotation in 2019 and already looks like one of the team’s breakout stars in 2021, but as of right now, Over the Cap evaluates Sweat’s play at $7.011 million, which is significantly higher than his current cap hit of $3.57 million but is notably less than the $13.33 AAV he’s set to earn from 2022-24.

But let’s not talk about the merits of Sweat’s extension versus the agreed-upon price. Let’s instead talk about how it affects Derek Barnett‘s future with the team.

Does Derek Barnett still have a home with the Philadelphia Eagles?

Derek Barnett is a 4-3 base defensive end.

He’s not particularly fast, not particularly powerful, and not particularly elite against either the run or the pass.

On paper, that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but in the modern-day NFL, where no-huddle, two-minute offenses are regularly deployed in any given game, having a quality defensive end who can do a little bit of everything without doing anything poorly is an asset in itself, even if said ability doesn’t directly translate to sacks, tackles for loss, and financial compensation.

Barnett unquestionably falls into that category and did so coming out of college too, for that matter.

As unconventional as it may sound, the Philadelphia Eagles have never been one of those teams who look to rack up crazy sack totals. Despite having changed out defensive coordinators multiple times since Fletcher Cox came to town in 2012, the Birds’ defensive line philosophy has remained largely the same: Collapse the pocket around the quarterback and force opposing play-callers to adjust their gameplan accordingly.

In that role, Barnett is actually a pretty darn good schematic fit, which is surely why Howie Roseman opted to draft the Tennessee product over Carl Lawson, Takk McKinley, Taco Charlton, and the new richest defenseman in the NFL, T.J. Watt.

Sidebar: Could you imagine if the Eagles had drafted Marlon Humphrey over Barnett with the 14th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft? He could have been a vital performer for the team in that Super Bowl run. *sigh* if only.

Since entering the NFL, Barnett has averaged roughly 2.1 total tackles per game, 1.35 QB hits per game, and a sack once every 2.51 games. He’s never surpassed a 70.0 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, has a career average value grade of 4.75 according to Pro-Football-Reference, and is sitting at a worth of $3.2 million according to Over the Cap’s Valuation Diamond.

In layman’s terms? Barnett is being overpaid on his current $10 million fifth-year option payout, even if he’s still considering an average starting-caliber defensive end.

So what, you may ask, should the Philadelphia Eagles do about his contractual situation moving forward?

That, my friends, could be a very lucrative question.

On paper, that question should be a fairly easy one to answer. If Barnett’s camp wants a deal in the same range as Sweat, it may be wise to allow him to test the open market, bring back the best offer and see if the Eagles’ front office can field something comparable. While Barnett doesn’t fit into the Danielle Hunter mold of a super speedy edge rusher, he’s comparable to Everson Griffen, who excelled under Jonathan Gannon during their shared tenure in Minnesota.

Assuming Brandon Graham hangs up his cleats when his current contract runs out in 2023, having Barnett and Sweat under contract moving forward could be an ideal long-term pairing.

That, understandably, is leverage in favor of Barnett’s camp. What isn’t, however, is the presence of Milton Williams, who already looks like a super third-round steal and may just slot in as the heir apparent to BG’s patented inside-out game.

If the Eagles believe Milton can approximate Barnett’s value as a big-bodied rotational edge rusher in base packages while simultaneously shifting inside to rush from the three-tech next to Cox, they may be willing to let their former first-round pick walk in favor of a cheaper, mid-level free-agent addition – think a younger Ryan Kerrigan – or another mid-round draft pick.

Fortunately, the Eagles’ front office has an entire regular season to see if Barnett can finally transcend his current position as a middle-of-the-road defense end or if Williams has what it takes to reach that level as a 23-year-old second-year pro. Best-case scenario, the duo both show out, and the Eagles find themselves with a wealth of edge-rushing possibilities heading into the Nick Sirianni-era.

Next. How DeMeco Ryans found a home in San Francisco. dark

There’s no doubt about it; Josh Sweat’s extension isn’t the best news in the world for Derek Barnett. With only so much money left under the salary cap in 2022 – $13.07 million, according to Over the Cap – the Philadelphia Eagles will have to weigh retaining Barnett versus extending players like Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Eric Wilson, Rodney McLeod, and/or Anthony Harris, all of whom could become free agents in 2022. While Howie Roseman can work his magic and make the puzzle pieces fit better than most, some players will surely have to seek employment elsewhere, regardless of their on-field production.