PHILADELPHIA - Nobody expected Derek Barnett back with the Eagles.
The much-maligned edge probably didn’t want to come back. He spoke to reporters only once and that line of questioning was basically about his penchant for penalties and his thoughts about the contract extension his teammate Josh Sweat got at the beginning of the season.
Can you blame him for not talking again?
He hears the fans’ boos.
How can he not?
“I think going into free agency, he probably thought a little differently about where he would be,” GM Howie Roseman told reporters gathered in South Florida at the end of March.
Barnett’s market never developed the way he had hoped after free agency began on March 16.
Eight days later, the Eagles decided that maybe taking another swing at a player who will just be 26 on June 25, one who they thought enough of five years ago to take him in the first round of the draft, wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
“Ever since I got here, I see the same guy every single day that's determined every day to get better at his craft,” head coach Nick Sirianni said last week. “Derek is obsessed with football and trying to become the best player that he can. I really appreciate that with him. He works hard in the classroom, the weight room and works extremely hard on the field.
“I just see the same guy every single day. I'm excited that we have him back on this football team to continue to add depth to that defensive line. I really think we are in a good spot with the defensive line and really excited about that group. I'm really excited to have Derek Barnett back on this football team.”
The thing about seeing the same guy in Barnett every day is he seems to be the same guy that shows up on Sundays or Monday nights, the one who seems to be good for at least one foolish penalty every few games. He has more penalties than sacks, of which he has just 21.5 in 64 career games.
Barnett was relatively healthy last year, playing in 16 of the 17 games, yet he had just two sacks. That was a career-low, a half-sack fewer than he had in 2018 when injury cut his season down to just six games.
Still, the Eagles signed him to a team-friendly, two-year contract.
It’s worth up to $14 million, with a salary cap hit of $2.6M, but it’s basically a one-year deal worth $5.5 million and the Eagles won’t have any problem shedding the contract if Barnett’s production doesn’t improve.
Then, the Eagles went out and didn't draft another edge rusher, so Barnett will have a role this fall.
Perhaps having a space-eater like Jordan Davis occupying blockers up the middle will help Barnett reach his potential. Maybe with the multiple fronts defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is capable of playing with a cupboard full of linebackers will somehow be to Barnett’s benefit.
Perhaps Barnett will take the story of teammate Brandon Graham to heart.
Everyone had written Graham off as a bust in the few years after the Eagles took him in the first round back in 2010. Graham, though, persevered, going from bust to Super Bowl hero.
“Me and DB talked, and he didn’t want to leave here with a bad taste with the fans,” said Graham last week. “He doesn’t want the fans to think he couldn’t play at a high level consistently. I think for him, he has unfinished business. Like I told him, I want to help you get where you want to go because I know how it feels to be on the other side of it and I know now how it feels to be on the other side of it when you start making good plays.
“Obviously, we won the Super Bowl and stuff like that and things changed for me, but it was hard in the beginning. A lot of people wanted me out. I’m happy DB got another chance to come back and prove what he can do.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.