IT WOULD be hard to name an athlete in any sport who became a bigger part of the fabric of Philadelphia than Connor Barwin did in just four years as a pass rusher, locker-room leader, bike rider, SEPTA booster, charity concert promoter, park restorer and all-around civic catalyst.
It was apparent he was leaving, given Barwin's lack of production last season after the Eagles switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, negating all his football savvy, emphasizing a type of raw pass-rush power he no longer possesses at age 30. But that didn't make the departure any easier, when the Eagles released Barwin on Thursday, after being unable to trade him.
"Connor Barwin is a tremendous teammate, player and an even better person," Eagles de facto general manager Howie Roseman said. "He represented the Philadelphia Eagles with class and integrity for the past four seasons and we appreciate his efforts both on and off the field. It's rare to come across a player who invests so much of himself in the locker room, as a leader on the field, and with his relentless work ethic. His work in the community will have a lasting impact on our city that we can all be very proud of. Obviously this was a difficult decision for us, but we wish him and his family all the best. On behalf of all of us, we just wanted to say thank you and we all hope that our paths cross again in the future."
Barwin released a statement on Instagram in which he vowed to continue the Philadelphia work of his Make the World Better Foundation. "Thank you Philadelphia from the bottom of my heart for welcoming me and for being the amazing city you are," he said. "Our current projects at Smith Playground and Waterloo Playground are moving forward and very exciting. I hope to see many of you at our concert this year.
"I have learned from and cherish every experience I have had in the great city of Philadelphia and every snap I played as an Eagle."
Barwin was a free-agent signee from Houston in 2013, the first year of the Chip Kelly era, and he led the NFC with 141/2 sacks in 2014, making his first Pro Bowl. Kelly added cash to and moved to guarantee more of his six-year, $36 million contract, which still had two years to run when Barwin was released. The Eagles, in a salary-cap pinch, badly needed the $7.75 million worth of room they could clear by removing him from the roster.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins penned an Instagram tribute to Barwin Thursday in which he called Barwin: "a leader not only on our team but in the Philly community."
Jenkins went on to say: "Your commitment has made me step my game up both on and off the field. I appreciate what you do and who you are bro."
Though Barwin managed only five sacks last season, he was a durable, reliable presence. Barwin has played in each of the team's 64 games since his arrival. The Eagles definitely will need to add to their pass-rush arsenal, either in free agency or through the draft.