Drafted with the ninth overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft, linebacker Anthony Barr has both flourished and disappointed fans and coaches alike. Coming out of UCLA, Barr was a 3-4 outside linebacker, putting his hand in the dirt and rushing the passer to the tune of 23.5 sacks in two seasons as a starter. Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made Barr his first pick in his first season leading the team, moving Barr to a stand-up position as a 4-3 outside linebacker. With his future in question, teams (and Barr) will decide if he’s prepared to move back to his old 3-4 position, or if he’ll stay with the team that drafted him and continue playing in a two-point stance.
Anthony Barr NFL Free Agent Profile
Standing 6-5, and weighing 255 pounds, Barr’s size would suggest that he’d be an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker. But his speed and explosiveness allow him to cover much ground behind and around him as well. While he hasn’t been asked to blitz a ton in his five seasons with the Vikings, he has gotten to the quarterback when asked (13.5 sacks overall).
He’s also been a playmaker throughout his career. In 2014, he sealed a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a forced fumble that he picked up and returned for a touchdown in overtime. He’s forced seven fumbles in his career and, when engaged, can ruin opposing teams’ running games by playing behind the line of scrimmage. When Barr is on his game, the Vikings defense is on its game.
Unfortunately, Barr’s motor isn’t always on. In December of 2016, Zimmer told reporters that Barr had the tendency to coast. After stellar rookie and sophomore campaigns, Barr’s impact was being felt less and less throughout 2016. He rebounded in 2017 and, in turn, the Vikings defense was the league’s best. His play in 2018 was good but not great and again raised questions about his future with the team.
Last month, Barr also said that he believes there will be “endless” possibilities in free agency. That could also go in hand with him believing that playing downhill play more to his strengths than what is asked of him in Minnesota’s defense. He could decide to move on not out of spite, but for a comfort factor in playing as a 3-4 edge rusher.
With the Miami Dolphins hiring former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, they will be switching to a 3-4 defense. Barr could be the type of hybrid edge-rusher that Flores could use all around the line of scrimmage as he tries to implement his scheme. Despite saying he’d prefer to play downhill, Barr’s experience standing up could make him a Swiss Army Knife that could wreck havoc in the AFC East as he hits his prime (he’ll be 27 when the season begins).
Still, he could decide he wants to come back to Minnesota. The Vikings have kept most of their defense intact since Zimmer got hired in 2014, and no one knows Barr better than Minnesota. Possibly expanding on having him rush the passer could convince him to stay, but with a somewhat tight budge going into free agency, the Vikings may only be able to offer so much before telling Barr “thanks, but no thanks”.
Last Word on Anthony Barr
Barr brings a unique blend of size and speed and an attitude that, when tapped into, can destroy offensive gameplans. He’s going to have to decide on whether he wants to stay in a system he knows inside and out, or if he wants to change defensive philosophies and start rushing quarterbacks every pass play.
There’s also the possibility that he can chase after the highest bidder (likely a team that runs a 3-4, as outside linebackers usually command more money than their 4-3 counterparts). This could keep him in a 4-3 system even though that system may not be in Minnesota. As Barr said in January, there are endless possibilities. Now it’s up to him to make the right decision on where to take his career and, hopefully for him, set himself up for another sizable contract in four or five years.
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