How early NFL signings may affect the Eagles' Derek Barnett plans


The Eagles’ Derek Barnett situation took an interesting turn Monday when the value of edge rushers appeared to take a big leap forward.

Soon after the legal free agency period opened at noon, the Buccaneers re-signed Shaq Barrett and the Lions re-signed Mario Okwara, preventing both pass rushers from hitting free agency.

Barrett, technically an outside linebacker in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 front, led the NFL with 19 1/2 sacks in 2019 before recording 8.0 last year (and four more in the playoffs) for the Super Bowl champs. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Barrett and the Bucs agreed on a four-year, $72 million deal.

But the move that could really impact the Eagles' plans is the Okwara signing.

Rapoport reported that the Lions and Okwara agreed on a deal worth $39 million over three years for a $13 million annual average for Okwara to remain in Detroit.

That’s notable for the Eagles because Okwara and Barnett have produced at a fairly similar level.

Okwara was originally an undrafted free agent with the Giants in 2016 and only had one sack in two seasons before he was released. But he generated 19 sacks the last three years with the Lions, including a career-high 10 last year.

Since joining the Lions, Okwara has generated 0.44 sacks per game. In his four years with the Eagles, Barnett has 19 1/2 sacks and has generated 0.41 sacks per game. Similar numbers.

How does this affect the Eagles?

Because if the reported salary figure is accurate, it could potentially raise Barnett’s value if he hits the open market.

Before that deal, the general sense was that Barnett would get somewhere around $8 million per year either from the Eagles on a long-term deal that would spread out his cap hit and give the Eagles 2021 cap relief or on the open market if he got there.

The Eagles have until 4 p.m. Wednesday — the start of the new league year — to either agree with Barnett on a long-term deal, pay him a $10 million tender that also counts $10 million against the cap for 2021 or release him.

If the market for a player of that caliber has increased, Barnett’s camp could be more reluctant to agree to a long-term deal with the Eagles.

That would force the Eagles to decide whether to cut ties with a player they drafted with the 14th pick in 2017 or keep the $10 million one-year deal.

The Eagles are at the point where they could fit that $10 million under their cap, and they may decide that Barnett, even though he’s underachieved as a pro, is worth keeping at that figure.

The key is how much the Eagles would offer Barnett in a long-term deal. Do they want to make the sort of financial commitment that the Lions made to Okwara to a guy who’s never had more than 6 1/2 sacks in a season and has missed 16 games due to injury in four years?

It’s a tough decision. And the Eagles don’t have much time to make it.

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