As Great a Guy as Connor Barwin Is, His Release Was Necessary for Eagles

These are the moves that are hardest to make. And the moves you have to make.

I can't remember an athlete coming through town over the years who more naturally and genuinely and passionately became a Philadelphian. 

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Connor Barwin's love for our city, and his tireless energy in raising money to fund projects that really made a difference in the South Philly neighborhoods within a few miles of the sports complex is unprecedented.

There's really never been anyone like him.

He didn't just talk about it, he rolled up his sleeves and organized and ran meetings and raised money and held concerts and truly made a difference in the community he lived in.

And that's rare. 

It's also totally irrelevant when it comes to trying to build a winning football team.

And that's why this business is so tough and why when you're running a football team you have to be bloodless.

You just can't let your emotions control your decisions.

And that's why today is a sad day in Eagles history but also an important day in Eagles history.

Barwin spent four seasons here, piled up 31 1/2 sacks, never missed a game and even made his first Pro Bowl in 2014 as an outside linebacker.

He also turned 30 in October, had only five sacks playing out of position at defensive end last year, and generally looked like he didn't fit into what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants to do.

By releasing Barwin Thursday morning, the Eagles cleared $7.75 million in cap room (see story). Considering they had only about $6.2 million available when the day began, that's huge.

It's tough. I guarantee you Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Jeff Lurie dreaded this day. Say what you want about them, they're all good guys and they genuinely care about the people who come through the NovaCare Complex entrance.

But this is a team that hasn't won a playoff game in eight years, and the people running the franchise have to be focused on infusing the roster with talent and not keeping around players because they're good guys and make a difference in the community and build playgrounds.

Harsh. But true. It's a tough business, but it's a business and you can't lose sight of that.

I think this is the toughest thing for coaches and GMs to do. You build relationships, you have incredible respect for people, they play their hearts out for you, you admire them, you get to know their families ... and then you cut them.

One of the reasons the Eagles had so much success from 2000 through 2008 was Andy Reid's refusal to make roster decisions based on how popular a player was or what a good guy he was or how much of an impact he had made in Philly or how much Big Red liked him.

You have to cold-blooded. And if that means cutting ties with Troy Vincent, Brian Mitchell, Brian Westbrook, Jeremiah Trotter, Donovan McNabb or Jon Runyan, he did not hesitate.

To compete at an elite level in the NFL, you need superstars. You need playmakers. And to acquire them you need to either draft them or sign them. And to sign them you need money. Lots of it. And without moves like this, the Eagles simply would not have enough cap space to be competitive.

So it's a sad day but also an encouraging day.

Because nobody wanted to see Barwin go. Heck, I certainly didn't. Not many Eagles I can hang out with at the XPoNential Festival or chat with at their locker about the new Kurt Vile record or War on Drugs tour dates.

But if you're an Eagles fan, you have to be encouraged and maybe a little relieved to see that the Eagles are willing to make these tough decisions that they don't want to make but must make.

And this won't be the last one.

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