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Anthony Barr’s Versatility Will Help Him Fit in With Nearly Any Defense

Barr is an every-down linebacker who can deftly switch between coverage and rushing the passer—but is that worth top dollar from needy teams?

Throughout the next several weeks, we’ll be assessing the market on some of the best free agents set to come available on March 14. Beyond scheme fit, these decisions will be impacted by available finances, team thoughts on current draft prospects and perception of value vs. actual value. We’ll try and parse through those ideas here.

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Name: Anthony Barr
Age: 26 (turning 27 on March 18)
Position: Linebacker
2018 Salary: $12,306,000 (fifth-year option)
2018 Statistics: 13 games, three sacks, 55 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble

Why he’s a top-tier free agent: The former first-round pick came out of UCLA into the NFL already a versatile linebacker, but he earned a masters degree in Mike Zimmer’s defense. He can play every down, and deftly switch between coverage and rushing the passer. This is the way defenses are heading, but the nice thing about Barr is that he isn’t on the small side either (listed at 6' 5", 255 pounds). While teams may desire a little bit more speed, he is capable enough in coverage and bulky enough to take on lead blockers. His role as a pass rusher was also highlighted a bit more this season.

Risks involved: Barr missed a handful of games with a hamstring injury last season, though nothing that should lag into the 2019 regular season. Otherwise, it’s going to come down to a teams’ willingness to spend top dollar for a position that other general managers are successfully replicating in the middle or later rounds of the draft. While I think Barr transcends the typical I can get one big guy and one coverage guy in the third and fifth rounds and it’ll be the same thing argument, it’ll be interesting to see if his sack numbers (career high of four) are held against him, or if teams are projecting him into a larger pass-rushing role in their scheme.

Market prospects: Outside of Clay Matthews, who is six years older than Barr and is better suited as a true pass rusher, there aren’t a while lot of players like him available, which is a good thing. I don’t think this is a 4-3 exclusive decision, either, and he’ll fit in well with coordinators who enjoy deploying those ambiguous, amoeba-type defenses.

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Potential destinations: Minnesota, New England, San Francisco, Oakland

Contract comps: 

Jamie Collins, Cleveland Browns: Four years, $50,000,000 / $12,500,000 APY /  $26,400,000 total guarantees

Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers: Five years, $59,000,000 / $11,800,000 APY / $18,500,000 total guarantees

Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Five years, $50,250,000 / $10,050 APY / $25,556,709 total guarantees 

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