Yesterday's trade that sent linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Eagles in return for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick came as a bit of a surprise.
The Ravens have made improving their pass rush a priority this offseason, and hope to do a better job this year of getting pressure on the quarterback.
So why would they decide to ship off one of their best pass rushers nine days before they open the regular season?
The answer, I believe, is three-fold.
- Firstly, while Barnes is a solid pass rusher and had a nice training camp, he's not a very well-rounded player.
The 2007 fourth-round pick isn't great against the run (anyone remember that missed tackle on Bengals running back Cedric Benson last year?) and he doesn't contribute on special teams. Those are areas where Prescott Burgess and Edgar Jones, two outside linebackers who made the Ravens' 53-man roster, can provide more assistance.
- Barnes never seemed to mesh with head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens' coaching staff. He apparently worked his way into Harbaugh's doghouse mid-way through last season when he was made a gameday inactive four weeks in a row, and he didn't fully embrace the special teams aspects, which obviously are important to a head coach who's a former special teams coordinator.
The Ravens expect their reserves to be able to contribute on kick and punt units, and Barnes never appeared to buy into that.
- Lastly, and this is more speculative than my previous two points, I think Sergio Kindle's health could have played a factor in the decision to trade Barnes.
The Ravens' rookie linebacker will soon come to Baltimore to get some neurological testing done a month and a half after fracturing his skull, and he might have gotten some good news. He's sounded very positive about his possible return to the football field on his Twitter account, writing yesterday, "Its official, i'll be wear'n number 94!!! ima sit out some games but look for ya boy on that field sometime next month!!"
Once Kindle signs his contract with the Ravens, he'll be placed on the Reserve Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning he'll miss at least the first six games of the season. Kindle's prediction for his return seems a bit optimistic considering the severity of his injury, but who knows, the Texas product could be back playing sometime later this season.
If he is, he could easily replace the pass rush production that Barnes would have provided, and his ability to contribute on special teams will make him a better all-around player than the now departed Barnes.