Connor Barwin chose LA Rams for reunion with Wade Phillips
LOS ANGELES (AP) Connor Barwin had several options for the next stop in his NFL career after he couldn't work out a way to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles.
He decided to make a fresh start on the West Coast with an old mentor.
Barwin signed with the Los Angeles Rams last week, agreeing to a one-year-deal. The move reunites him with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, whose signature 3-4 defense set up Barwin to become a star with the Houston Texans.
''Wade did a lot for me in the two years I was with Houston,'' Barwin said Wednesday in a phone interview. ''He taught me so much about being a pro, enjoying being around the game every single day, and he really elevated my game as a pass rusher.''
Barwin will be an outside linebacker in Phillips' 3-4 scheme after serving as an end last year with the Eagles. Those position names are really just semantics, because Barwin expects to be a down lineman on about 60 percent of the Rams' defensive snaps.
The Rams' defense was above-average last season under coordinator Gregg Williams, and Phillips will have most of that personnel at his disposal as he shapes the group into a 3-4 unit. Barwin can't wait to get started next month.
''This is as good as they get in LA,'' Barwin said. ''I'm excited to be a part of that group and make the group even better.''
Barwin said he'll be the left defensive end on most nickel snaps; Robert Quinn prefers to play from the right side. Barwin prides himself on his versatility, and he expects to be effective anywhere Phillips wants him.
Barwin made the Pro Bowl in 2014 with the Eagles, and he was willing to take a pay cut to stay in Philadelphia. He signed his six-year contract in 2013 knowing it would have to be restructured after four years. But when the Eagles asked for a cut that was apparently far below what Barwin could make on the open market, he decided to move on.
He isn't angry with the Eagles, but he remains disappointed by his declining production last season after transitioning from a 3-4 defense to coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 set. He still managed five sacks as an end, but his 34 tackles were his fewest in a full season since his rookie year in 2009.
''I think if I would have stayed, I would have been better as well,'' Barwin said. ''There's a lot of money in the defensive line room in Philadelphia, and I think they wanted to use (some of) that money - wisely, I think - to help Carson Wentz, to get him some receivers.''
Barwin also was pursued by the Cincinnati Bengals as a free agent, but the University of Cincinnati product thought the Rams presented more opportunities.
Los Angeles went 4-12 last season, losing 11 of its last 12 games despite the efforts of its solid defense. The Rams then hired 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay, who is a mere nine months older than Barwin.
''Ultimately. I thought it was a better opportunity to be in LA, and be in a defense that I've had success with,'' Barwin said.
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