Eagles add 3 more players, defense taking shape

After a slow second day of free agency, the Eagles picked up where they left off following the flurry of signings on Day 1. Here’s what you need to know about the 3 newest players in midnight green:

Connor Barwin

Pos: Outside Linebacker
Age: 26
Ht: 6’3″
Wt: 268
Last Team: HOU

Barwin reportedly signed a 6 year, $36 million contract earlier today. Primarily used as a pass rusher in Houston, Barwin is coming off of a down year (3 sacks in 2012) but is just two years removed from a 11.5 sack performance that ranked 3rd best among 3-4 OLBs. The numbers from PFF aren’t particularly encouraging. Despite rushing the passer 533 total times last season, Barwin managed just 40 total pressures (sacks, hits, hurries). That ratio is far below average. On the positive side, Barwin is a sure tackler and draws a fair number of holding penalties. He has also been decent when asked to cover on passing downs, but that really didn’t happen very often in his time as a starter under Houston DC Wade Phillips. All that said, Howie Roseman probably paid market value for Barwin’s services. His average salary of $6M per season is far from the top-dollar that’s been shelled out to other 3-4 pass rushing specialists in recent years. (Cameron Wake’s $12M per year average comes to mind.) Unfortunate as it may be, Barwin’s presence probably indicates that Trent Cole’s days are numbered, but given the amount cap space that the Eagles still have, it seems likely that Cole will get to stick around for at least this year. Barwin played with Eagles ILB DeMeco Ryans while in Houston. 

Cary Williams

Pos: Cornerback
Age: 28
Ht: 6’1″
Wt: 190
Last Team: BAL

After two seasons as a starter in Baltimore, Williams cashed in with a 3-year, $17 million contract. A 7th round pick in 2008, Williams has earned a reputation as a physical outside cornerback with average cover skills. In case you haven’t started noticing the pattern to these free agent signings yet, Williams is a very good tackler. In 2012 (including 4 playoff games), he amassed 95 tackles and missed just 6. He recorded 10 tackles in the Ravens’ wildcard victory over Indy. In coverage, Williams’s performance is more of a mixed bag. Williams caught 4 interceptions last year and recorded 17 pass deflections, but he also got burned against Dallas, Houston, San Diego, and yes, the Eagles. His contract slots in just below those given to other 2nd-tier corners such as Sean Smith and Derek Cox.

Kenny Phillips

Pos: Safety
Age: 26
Ht: 6’2″
Wt: 217
Last Team: NYG

Phillips is taking a trip down I-95. Leaving the Giants after 5 injury-plagued seasons, Phillips signed a one-year “prove it” deal and, if healthy, he has a very good chance to start. A former 1st round pick, Phillips played up to his draft slot during his two full seasons as a starter from 2010-11. (As if I even have to say it) Phillips is a strong tackler from the back, and recorded 78 solo tackles while missing just 7 in 15 games in 2011. Despite struggling in coverage in 2010, Phillips rebounded and had a bona fide All-Pro season in 2011. He caught 4 interceptions and recorded a 43.4 passer rating against when the ball was thrown in his direction. If Phillips can get his knees to work and can regain any of the mojo that he had in that season, the Eagles’ safety situation is suddenly looking a lot better in 2013.

As free agency advances, it seems that a discernible pattern is developing in Howie Roseman’s strategy. Sign unheralded guys from winning teams to market-level deals, and make sure they can tackle. This couldn’t possibly be a bigger break from the strategy employed two years ago that put the ignominious “Dream Team” together, and frankly, that can only be a good thing.

Posted on March 14, 2013, in Eagles, Hank Mushinski, Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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