HEADING into year four, DE Derek Barnett has 14.0 career sacks, and has never played all 16 games in a season. More than 14 sacks (by now), was expected of a player selected 14th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s true that as a DE he’s expected to play the run as well as the pass, but make no mistake, he was drafted primarily to sack the QB.
He was touted for having beaten his school’s career sack record, previously held by some guy named Reggie White. Maybe you’ve heard of him? There was constant mention of Barnett breaking that record, coupled with Eagles brass raving about how Barnett’s hands helped him gain quick access to QB’s.
No one came right out and said it, but the whispers were “This guy might end up being better than Reggie.” No one said that outright, because until someone does it, the idea will always be laughable. As an Eagle, Reggie played in 121 games, producing 125 sacks. That’s more than a sack per game, over a span of eight straight seasons, despite constant double and triple teams.
Reggie White’s career as an Eagle reads like Norse mythology. So of course no one will put their reputation on the line, and say that Barnett (or anyone else), has a chance to be as good, let alone better, than Reggie. However, the implications were there. Meanwhile, after three seasons, Barnett has yet to have even produce 10 sacks in a calendar year, let alone a season.
To their credit, the Eagles decided to roll the dice on Barnett. They picked up the fifth year option on his rookie contract, increasing his cap hit from 4M$ in 2019, to 10M$ in 2020. This is partly why the Eagles aren’t throwing money at free agent players like DE Jadeveon Clowney, or trying to trade for a player like DE Yannick Ngakuoe.
In his rookie season (as a back-up), Barnett earned 5 sacks. In year two he went on I.R. just 6 games into the season. Last season (his first full season as a starter), he picked up 6.5 sacks with the DT position beside him, being a revolving door due to injury. The guy playing next to Reggie for five years? Just some dude with a generic name like Jerome Brown. Maybe you’ve heard of him?
Barnett hasn’t had a consistent threat line up beside him yet. The Eagles are banking on 2020’s interior Defensive Line to provide the DE’s with more one-on-one opportunities, as well as cleaner, and faster paths to the passer. Thus allowing Barnett’s quick hands to become a factor.
While Barnett’s sack numbers aren’t eye-popping, in his rookie season, he collected what may be the most important fumble recovery in Eagles history, helping to secure our victory in Super Bowl 52.
He also produced a strip/sack in the NFC Championship game, to help the Eagles get to that Super Bowl. So he can produce when it counts, which is likely where the Eagles faith in him comes from.
The Eagles are banking on that, to the tune of an additional 6M$ this year. Here’s hoping that Barnett can finally deliver on a double digit sack year.