Eagles Sign Smith, Release Barwin
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - After the price for Kenny Britt got a little too expensive for the Philadelphia Eagles, the team shifted gears and signed wide receiver Torrey Smith to a three-year deal that averages $5 million a year.
Britt, meanwhile, got a four-year, $32.5 million deal with Cleveland and one NFL source tells 973espn.com that Tony Jefferson played into the signing.
Jefferson, the top safety on the market, was zeroing in on a deal with the Browns but reversed gears and decided to sign with Baltimore for less money, a clear indication to Cleveland that it might have to go significantly higher if it wanted to snare a certain player.
The source claimed the Eagles were expecting to get Britt, a New Jersey native who played his college football at Rutgers, until the price tag got too steep for their liking.
The team had long like Smith, who garnered his reputation as a deep threat in Baltimore when Eagles director of player personnel Joe Douglas was with that organization.
Philadelphia nearly traded for Smith at the deadline last season and now they have him five months later after San Francisco released him due to two disappointing seasons.
Originally a second-round pick of the Ravens in 2011, Smith (6-foot, 205) is regarded as a deep threat who has totaled 266 reception for 4,521 yards (an impressive 17.0 average) and 37 touchdowns over six NFL seasons.
Additionally, Smith has amassed 20 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns in eight career postseason appearances and won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013.
During his time in Baltimore, Smith averaged 20.1 yards-per-reception, leading all NFL players with at least 30 catches.
The problems started in San Francisco after he signed a big-money deal as a free agent before the 2015 season. Things bottomed out for him in 2016 while playing in Chip Kelly’s offense with Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick throwing him the football as Smith snared just 20 receptions in 49 targets for 267 yards and a career-low 13.4 yards-per-catch.
The spin will be that Smith was in a bad offense with terrible QBs throwing him the football but remember Britt has the same issues with Case Keenum and Jared Goff but produced.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Smith was graded No. 114 of 115 qualifying receivers last season, ahead of only Eagles’ disappointment Nelson Agholor. Britt, conversely, was a far more respectable 39th.
Still, the Eagles plan is reportedly to add a speed receiver and complement him with a WR with size. Smith fits into the speed category while Britt was reportedly the top choice to add size.
Before signing Smith, the Eagles also finally released defensive end Connor Barwin after being unable to find a trade partner.
By releasing Barwin, a move long expected, the salary-cap team freed up $7.75 million in cap space.
Barwin, 30, joined the Eagles via free agency in 2013 as a 3-4 linebacker and he became one of the team’s most productive and respected players, topping out with a 14 ½-sack season in 2014.
The move to the 4-3 under Jim Schwartz did not figure to suit Barwin and that played out last season as he was asked not only to switch positions but also turn into a weak-side pass rusher, instead of where he’s most comfortable, on the strong side.
Barwin thanked the Eagles and the fans on Instagram:
The organization quickly reciprocated with a statement.
"Connor Barwin is a tremendous teammate, player and an even better person," said Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. "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.
"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."
In a lesser move, Philadelphia also confirmed it will be bringing back versatile backup linebacker and special-teams stalwart Najee Goode on a one-year deal.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen