Sunday, February 7, 2016

Why did the Texans let Connor Barwin and James Casey sign with the Eagles?

PHOENIX -- It's the obvious question every time a team signs a free agent: If said player is so good, why did his former team let him go?

Why did the Texans let Connor Barwin and James Casey sign with the Eagles?

Connor Barwin during a game in 2012. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP file)
Connor Barwin during a game in 2012. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP file)

PHOENIX -- It's the obvious question every time a team signs a free agent: If said player is so good, why did his former team let him go?

The Eagles signed eight free agents last week -- at good value, on paper -- but each comes with his own particular baggage. General manager Howie Roseman gave Connor Barwin the most in guaranteed money ($8 million) of the eight, but the outside linebacker notched only three sacks for the Texans last season after recording 11-1/2 the year before.

Gary Kubiak, his former coach, tried to explain Barwin's dip in production.

"First off, we had more sacks this year than we did last year," Kubiak said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "Obviously, we had one player that had the majority of them (defensive end J.J. Watt). It just seems like when you're getting there the quarterback falls one way or the other.

"I think Connor played as well this year as he did last year. He just didn't have the numbers. He's always an effort player. Did a hell of a job for us. I thought he had a good season."

A Houston-based reporter then asked if the additional weight Barwin added in 2012 -- he said ten pounds -- affected his performance. The Eagles list Barwin at 6-foot-4, 264 pounds.

"I don't think it was quite that much, but, yeah, he played a little bigger this year than last year," Kubiak said. "Remember now, he got flipped around, too. He had to play [weak-side], [strong-side] because of what we had going on. We lost Brooks [Reed] for a while. We had some things going on with our team that made him have to be the adjuster for us."

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Roseman said last week that the Eagles came to the conclusion that the more time Barwin spent playing on the strong-side last season affected his ability to get after the quarterback. He also suggested that Barwin was asked to drop into coverage more because he played less at the weak side.

Barwin dropped into coverage on 101 of 1,137 total plays (8.8 percent) in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2011, he dropped on 88 of 1,117 plays (7.9 pct).

"If somebody was going to drop, he was the guy. ... Our WIL position rushes a lot more than our SAM, obviously," Kubiak said. "But I think him getting caught in having to bounce back and forth and move around, that might have had something to do with that."

Barwin said last week that he can play either side. The Eagles have revealed very little about their expected switch to a 3-4 defense, but Roseman suggested that Barwin was capable of playing either side since the outside linebacker spots should be interchangeable.

"I think he can play either side, I really do. He's very capable," Kubiak said. "We know he can rush the passer. You saw that two years ago with his production from a sack standpoint. He can drop, zone coverage, those types of things, zone pressures that guys like to do in a 3-4."

It had been reported that the Texans attempted to keep Barwin, but their effort was mild considering the relatively low price in which the Eagles signed the 26-year old. The same was said of James Casey, who the Texans also let walk.

The Eagles signed the versatile tight end to a three-year deal. Casey set career highs in receptions (34), receiving yards (330) and touchdowns (three) last season playing strictly as the fullback for the first time in his career.

"This year, James solely became our fullback in everything we did," Kubiak said. "He was banging, he was going out, we were shifting him out playing a lot of one-back stuff."

The Eagles gave little detail on how they plan to use the 28-year old, but coach Chip Kelly mentioned Patriots tight end Aaron Hernanadez twice when he asked how he could use employ Casey. Hernandez has been an effective complement to New England tight end Rob Gronkowski and lined up almost anywhere in the Patriots' scheme.

"I think James' best is yet to come," Kubiak said. "And, yes, I would love to have James in what we are doing. But we've had to get a new fullback four our of five years. That's part of the situation."

Tyler Clutts will take over Casey's spot at fullback, Kubiak said. Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus made Barwin expendable.

The Ravens chose not the bring Cary Williams back. The Eagles signed the 27-year-old cornerback to a three-year contract worth $17 million, although only $5.5 million is guaranteed.

"He'll give you everything he's got," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "He's an emotional man. He really cares. As far as the physical part, he's long and fast and he's got good ball skills. So I think Philly's got a good player."

But not good enough that Harbaugh felt the need to keep him.

Staff Writer
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