Shortly before a helmet-less Brian Cushing head butted Cleveland Browns guard Shawn Lauvao during a game in 2011, he asked a teammate on the sideline a very simple question: "Get sacks, get...?"
"Stacks," Connor Barwin replied.
Barwin brought the sacks that year - 11.5 in total - and the Texans front office in turned tried to lock him down with a long-term deal that offseason by offering him the stacks he was seeking. Barwin decided to pass on the offer, taking his chances in playing out his contract in the hopes of getting an even bigger payday one year later. His production then plummeted, nowhere more noticeably than in that key revenue-generating statistic, the sack. Barwin finished the 2012 season with just three.
Turns out the gamble didn't hurt him after all. Only two days after the Philadelphia Eagles threw $14.5 million over three years at former Texans fullback James Casey, they made Barwin, too, an offer he couldn't refuse.
Assuming the outside linebacker's production remains static in the new Philadelphia 3-4 defense, he will be getting paid an average of $2 million per sack under his new contract: six years, $36 million, with $8 million guaranteed and a chance to earn an extra $4 million in incentives. Barwin sounds sincere when he says he never thought until the final day of negotiations that he'd ever leave Houston, but it was simply an amount the Texans were not willing to match. At least we know Rick Smith made him an offer, something that puts my mind somewhat at ease, unlike the way Rivers felt Thursday about the safety that got away.
I received the Barwin news Thursday afternoon at around the same time as everybody else: 5:00 p.m. CST on the dot. I was in a meeting at the time, and couldn't check my phone. But as I heard - and felt - the texts pour in, I knew. This was not related to Ed Reed.
Connor Barwin (@ConnorBarwin98) March 14, 2013
This was something very bad.
"Later, Connor," read text no. 1.
"Later, barwin..." read no. 2.
"Later, #BarwinHouseParty," read my internal monologue.
Next up...youtu.be/c_SoYhtuMFs— Connor Barwin (@ConnorBarwin98) March 14, 2013
When your team is good, it means players are performing well. In a league with a hard salary cap, the unfortunate result is an offseason like the one the Texans are currently experiencing, and the one we experienced last year. Contracts expire, and players want bigger ones. Rick Smith declines to oblige them, and they leave. Other players then have to step up.
The fans, too, have to readjust. Which is why #MercilusHouseParty is about to make its Twitter debut.
Next man up, Whitney. Time to go to work.
Barwin's method of bidding us goodbye was especially poignant for me, as Boyz II Men's "II" was the first CD I ever bought. I'd had one or two cassette tapes before that - a Trisha Yearwod album and the soundtrack to "The Bodyguard" - but this was a compact disc, man. You could see your reflection in it! I used to listen to that CD over and over again during the days when Houstonians were Oilers fans. Thursday nights were my favorite night of the week back then: "Friends," homework break, "Seinfeld," homework break, and then "E.R." I especially loved E.R.
Although we've come to the end of the road with Barwin, we appear to be on the verge of starting something new with a man who goes by those very initials.
Ed. Reed. The most grizzled looking player in the NFL. A man whose beard alone has experienced more than Glover Quin's entire body. Even opposing receivers list him as their emergency contact number. Dude just rolls into town on Bob McNair's private jet, financial advisers in tow, and completely overshadows Pit Bull's big night at the Rodeo.
I don't have a problem with the move. In fact, I'm stoked on it. Reed can still ball, even if not like he could in the past, and if he stays healthy, brings a level of swag to the Texans secondary that we have been lacking since Bernard "This Is Why The NFL Doesn't Mic Me Up" Pollard departed to play alongside Reed in Baltimore.
Bernard Pollard cussing at Reggie Wayne on LIVE TV (via MattArchives)
The technical pros and cons of the Reed-for-Quin switch have already been discussed on Battle Red Blog in great detail. The basic premise of why the trade was made is fairly obvious. Reed's contract is expected to be for far fewer years than what Quin was seeking, even if at a slightly higher annual salary. It is expected to give Houston a level of cap freedom two or three years down the line that Quin's deal would not have, a time at which resigning the true core of the defense - Cushing and J.J. Watt - will become the highest priority "in franchise history." If you don't know what these two players are making now, you may not want to look. (Here are the figures for Cushing and Watt for the intrepid.) They are in line for substantial raises, and the work is already being done to prepare for that day.
(And by the way, a big payday is likely coming for Kareem Jackson after the 2014 season as well.)
Rick Smith offended Glover Quin by not making him an offer. This was certainly a dick move on Smith's part as a human being, but it was a logical decision as a general manager, even if you believe Quin is a better player than Ed Reed. The downside of letting him go, of course, is that it creates a need at the safety position in the medium to long term. Add that to the list of other positions where the Texans have a glaring need, and it is concerning. It's not just Reed who will be done in two or there years, after all, but possibly also Danieal Manning, whose decline was apparent in several situations last season. Quin could have been a long term fixture at the position. Houston now needs to starting grooming a replacement.
"Why don't we just wait until Shiloh comes around?" you may be wondering.
To which I respond: Shiloh Keo starting would be a surefire sign of the Apocalypse*:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples. - Genesis 49:10
Don't understand the context? Well, I guess then it will be a person like yourself who will unwittingly trigger the End Times. Don't worry, if it comes, it will all be over fast. I hope.
*Shout out to my Jesuit educators - and my years of listening to reggae music - for my mad Bible skillz.
Around the NFL:
- The rumor mill has Kevin Kolb going to the Jets. The Cardinals are almost sure to cut Kolb before his $5 million roster bonus comes due on Saturday, and new New York offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is still high on the player he urged the Eagles to draft in 2007. It says a lot about the state of the Jets that Kolb would actually have a chance at starting next season. It says a lot about the Jets that David Garrard is now on their roster. It says a lot about the Jets that Tim Tebow is still on their roster. I do not understand why Darrelle Revis wants to be on the Jets.
- Steven Jackson signed a three-year deal with Atlanta Thursday, presumably to play a back up role behind Jacquizz Rodgers. Jackson will be 30 years old next year, never a good age for a running back, and is probably excited about the prospect of going to the playoffs for only the second time in his career. Check this out: Jackson is tied for second all time in franchise history for touchdowns with Eric Dickerson. They both trail Marshall Faulk by only two.
- The Seahawks allowed fewer points than any other team in the NFL last year, giving up only 15.3 points per game. They may have just improved. Seattle signed two pass rushers on Thursday that make the prospect of playing them next year even less appealing. First was Cliff Avril, the former Lion who finished 2012 with 9.5 sacks, 35 tackles and two forced fumbles. Avril, who has yet to turn 27 years old, reportedly got a two-year deal for $15 million. Then there's Michael Bennett, who may be the poster child for the depressed DE market this offseason. Explain something to me: Connor Barwin comes off a three-sack year at outside linebacker and gets a six-year, $36 million dollar deal from the Eagles, with $8 million guaranteed. Defensive end Michael Bennett gets nine sacks in Tampa Bay, and he cashes in with a one-year offer from Seattle for $5 million. That's $3 million less than Barwin's guaranteed money alone. Both came into the league at the same time, meaning this is not some case about age and predicted performance. Aren't solid DE's supposed to get paid more than middle relief pitcher money? Aren't high profile journalists supposed to fact check articles? (Bennett actually started his career with Seattle, not Tampa Bay.)
- In honor of a buddy who is getting drug tested for a new job in Austin today (and probably, as the majority of you are, reading these words), this Kirk Cousins complaint about a dude watching him pee into a cup seems appropriate. Everyone now please knock on wood for my buddy.