Why the Eagles should really keep Derek Barnett

A Derek Barnett trade is not the right thing to do

By: Jake Rajala

Derek Barnett, who is heading into his fifth season, has been the subject of frequent trade speculation. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Derek Barnett 14th overall in the 2017 draft. To sum up Barnett’s four-year journey, he’s been a valuable contributor, but he hasn’t lived up to his draft stature.  

Barnett has registered roughly four sacks, five TFLs, and 12 QB hits per season. He’s far from Pro Bowl material, but his presence has been valuable in the lineup. 

The Eagles know that Barnett hasn’t been proven to be a high-end starter, so they’ve sought out higher talent at the EDGE spot this offseason. In free agency, Philly acquired the savvy veteran Ryan Kerrigan, who hunted down NFC East QBs for ten years in Washington. Kerrigan expects to bring a high motor and superb playmaking at key moments to Eagles nation. 

Kerrigan will prove to bring dividends to the Eagles defense and potentially be an upgrade at the DE spot opposite Graham. The signing of the former Washington profile, combined with Washington opting to retain Brandon Graham, makes many believe that Barnett is out of the loop. However, I still believe the verdict of Eagles offseason decisions at pass rusher does not take Barnett out of the big picture, nor do I believe it’s the best idea to trade the 25-year-old DE. Let me begin.

  • Brandon Graham and Ryan Kerrigan are extremely aging

Brandon Graham is a legendary Eagle and a Super Bowl hero. However, Graham is 33 years old and his contract expires after 2022. Graham has shown to be productive (eight sacks in 2020), but his motor, experience, and talent will only last so long. Graham appears to be ending a Hall Of Fame Eagles career in 2-3 years.

Ryan Kerrigan, the notable and popular FA signee at DE, is 32 years old himself. Kerrigan may provide quality moments and help bring forth a powerful pass rotation to Eagles, but it’s very possible that he also doesn’t outperform Barnett at this stage in his career. Kerrigan is coming off a 5.5 sack season in 2020 and he also only flashed 5.5 sacks in 2019. There’s a strong likelihood that Kerrigan will be of similar caliber to Barnett, except Barnett is several years younger. 

  • Barnett has showed positive growth

The former first round pick DE had a career high of sacks in 2019 (6.5). His 2020 campaign wasn’t glorious, but he did capture 5.5 sacks while missing three games. It’s crystal clear that Barnett’s career is trending in the right direction. 

The Eagles are also confident in Barnett’s potential, as they opted to pick up his fifth year option. If Barnett takes a step forward in 2021, it would be hard to not accept his talent and outlook amid an aging pass-rushing group. 

  • Trade compensation would not be worth it

If Barnett is involved in trade discussions, I don’t believe the Eagles would get his full worth in exchange. A team would likely offer “a mid-round pick” or a second round pick (in a rare case) for his services. The Eagles are fully aware that he’s coming off a season of a near-significant injury and he’s a talented asset early in his career. 

There’s a real possibility that Barnett unleashes a seven to eight sack season in 2021. I believe it would be the right move to keep and extend a young, talented, and productive edge player versus trading him at this time. 

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