Updated: Mar 14
By Adam Aniba
Washington made multiple free agent signings on the first day of free agency, but their signing of former Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton might be their least talked about acquisition. Barton was drafted by Seattle in the 3rd round #88 overall of the 2019 NFL Draft.
After serving a reserve role for his first three seasons in Seattle, Barton saw extended time with the starters in '22. In fact, last season he played in 77% of the defensive snaps (11 starts) and recorded 136 tackles (84 solo), 4 TFL, 2 sacks and 6 passes defended.
Barton played four seasons in Seattle, playing in 65 games with 16 starts. During that span he recorded 231 tackles (140 solo), 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 ints, 8 PD and 1 FR. In 4 career playoff games, Barton posted 18 total tackles, 9 solo tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pass breakups.
Per Next Gen Stats, Barton was tied for 2nd in the NFL with Bucs linebacker Devin White for "Hustle Stops" with 23 (tackles based on pursuit of 20 yards+), only trailing Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. He also had a 8.2% defensive stop rate in '22, which was higher than any Commanders linebacker last season.
Although Barton experienced growing pains in his first year with extended playing time in '22, he carved out a larger role by midseason. He recorded career highs in every major category, ranking 2nd on the team in tackles and 5th in passes defended.
After previously being removed from the field on nickel/dime isuations, that changed during the second half of the season, as he established himself as a 3-down middle linebacker.
Per Pro Football Focus, Barton finished 4th among all NFL linebackers in '22, allowing a 68.6 passer rating while in coverage. He only gave up 1 touchdown, recorded 2 interceptions and had 3 pass breakups last season. During that span, he also surrendered a league-low 6.7 yards per reception.
The former Seahawks linebacker also showed tremendous gains in the run game as well. Viewed as a finisher at the point of attack, Barton had only 8 missed tackles (6.0% miss rate) in '22. He also displayed his ability as a blitzer in '22, finishing with 2 sacks, 4 QB pressures (deployed 28 times).
The Arizona matchup (10/16/22) highlighted Barton's ability the flip his hips, when tasked with dropping in coverage. On the play below, the Seahawks linebacker ran step-for-step with WR Rondale Moore and was just as effective when he faced TE Zach Ertz.
Barton is viewed as a high IQ linebacker, that showed tremendous growth from week 8 through the end of the season, while playing WLB and MLB.
The Commanders have struggled to find a reliable MIKE Linebacker, since the retirement of London Fletcher following the 2013 season.
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio attempted to insert Cole Holcomb into the starting MIKE role with limited success, before the former Tar Heel went to IR in '22. It was hoped Jamin Davis was the future middle linebacker, but thus far the weak side seems to be his best fit in Del Rio's system.
It's still a possibility that linebacker Cole Holcomb could be re-signed, but it seems more likely that Barton starts the season at MLB and Rivera drafts his MIKE linebacker of the future next month.
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