His salary went up, his production went down, and Connor Barwin understands that at 30 years old and with the second-lowest sack total of his career, there is going to be plenty of speculation about his future.
And he knows it’s already started.
“It bothers me that I don’t have more sacks, so I understand why it bothers other people,” Barwin said at his locker Thursday. “So it’s been a tough year.
“But I know the game is much more than just that, so I try to keep things in perspective.”
Barwin recorded 26½ sacks in three years playing in a 3-4 front under Bill Davis, sixth-most in the NFC during that span and also sixth-most among all NFL linebackers.
But with the coaching change, a new defensive coordinator and a new system, Barwin went from 3-4 left outside linebacker to a 4-3 right defensive end, and his sacks dropped to four this year, including none in the last six weeks.
With upcoming base salaries of $7.75 million and $9.25 million in 2017 and 2018 and cap figures of $7.35 million and $8.35 million, the speculation about Barwin’s future is understandable.
The Eagles would absorb only $600,000 in dead cap money if they released Barwin this offseason, and Barwin’s age — he turned 30 in October — and declining production combined with his cap number add up to a huge question mark about his future for the cap-strapped team.
Barwin said it wasn’t appropriate to talk specifics until after the season but indicated Thursday he would consider taking a pay cut to stay in Philly.
“I expect to be here,” he said. “I know it’s something everybody’s talking about. And hopefully we work something out.”
Barwin said that while he’s disappointed in his production — four sacks would be his fewest since he had a career-low three for the Texans in 2012 — at least some of it is related to his move to the right side, where he faces the opposing team’s best offensive tackle every Sunday.
“I go against the best guy every single week, so if you want to talk about lack of productivity, the last three years, I’ve been on the left, going against not the best offensive lineman,” he said.
“So there’s that big change. And hopefully looking forward, I can go back to the left side.”
Barwin said none of his coaches ever approached him and explained why he was moving from left side to right, but he has a pretty good idea why the switch was made.
“I think what happened was Vinny (Curry) became a starter after he signed his contract and Vinny played on the left with me,” he said. “I played on the left and Vinny played left 3-technique.
"When Vinny signed that deal, he became a starter, so Vinny gets put to the left and I got bumped to the right, and then B.G. (Brandon Graham) bumps Vinny and B.G. goes to the left and then we just kind of roll with it.
“And no real competitor is going to say, ‘Hey, move me back to the left.’ You’re going to play where they put you.
“There was never any talk about it, it just kind of happened. The depth chart just kind of came.”
Barwin, a second-team All-Pro two years ago, took the switch as a challenge and never complained about it. Even though he knew his numbers would suffer.
And they have. Dramatically.
“I’d rather face guys who aren’t that good and get more sacks, if I’m going to be completely honest,” he said with a laugh. “But when we made the switch, the competitor in me … I was like, ‘Bleep, I’ll take this challenge,’ because that’s how competitors think and how you want to think.
“Even next year if I stay on the right I’ll still try to take advantage of that opportunity. But it is a whole different element.”
Sacks aren’t the only number that’s down for Barwin as a 4-3 end as opposed to a 3-4 linebacker.
In three years under Davis, including a 2014 Pro Bowl season, Barwin averaged 81 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and played an average of 66 snaps per game.
This year, he’s got 38 tackles, four tackles for loss and two pass breakups and has averaged 45 snaps per game.
“I obviously know there’s a lot of room for improvement and there’s definitely going to be growth from my first year in the defense to the next, like there should be for everybody,” Barwin said. “Like there was from my first year in Billy Davis’ 3-4 to my second year. I went from five sacks to almost 15 sacks.
“So I’m very excited about the growth that can happen from Year 1 to Year 2. There are little nuances in the defense and even the way (defensive coordinator) Jim (Schwartz) calls the game, just kind of understanding the way he calls the game and what teams are going to do.
“It’s something that I think even in the last couple weeks I’ve been a lot better at. And that takes time.”
Asked to evaluate his own play, Barwin gave a mixed response.
“Well, I think there were a couple games I’d want back that I didn’t play as good as I think I could have played,” he said. “And I would probably say that for about every year I’ve ever played in my career. There’s always one or two games you’d want back.
“But the season as a whole, I think I’ve improved as the season’s gone on, I’ve done my job for the most part, and I’m excited to see what I can do in Year 2 in this system.”
We all know how deeply ingrained Barwin is in the South Philadelphia community. His Make the World Better Foundation does incredible grassroots work, from his annual playground revitilization projects to his benefit concerts at Union Transfer to rebuilding athletic fields and rec centers in inner-city neighborhoods and much, much more.
When asked why he wants to finish his career in Philly, his first answer — said with a laugh — was: “I’ve got about $4 million in park projects that I want to be here for. I’m serious about that, too.”
Then he really did grow serious.
“I mean, really, this has become my home and you guys all know I love living in this city,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Mr. (Jeff) Lurie and my teammates that are here and the different neighborhoods that I’m involved in, the guys that have played here before me, the guys that are playing here now.
“I think it’s a great honor to play for this organization and I want to be here when they win and be a part of it.”