On the last day of July in 2011, a former mid-round pick out of Alabama walked into NovaCare Complex to sign a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. The veteran of six seasons had already played for three NFL teams during that span, and was looking to show the rest of the league that he could be a starter. The journeyman came to Philadelphia because General Manager Howie Roseman said that the best players would start for the Eagles. Evan Mathis accepted that challenge and hasn't looked back since. The now-eight year veteran is entering his third season with the Eagles and is just one offseason removed from signing a very generous extension.
Mathis, who came to the Eagles as what some considered a camp body, is now viewed as one of the top guards in the league by several media outlets. The Eagles found a diamond in the rough. That same jewel has now praised another offensive lineman who comes to the organization as a seemingly underwhelming journeyman similar to Mathis. "Allen Barbre is, at the very least, a starting caliber offensive guard," said Mathis. "If we were to lose a guard to injury, I'd be totally confident with him filling in."
If anyone would know what Barbre is going through heading into training camp, it would be Mathis. The Missouri Southern State alum is entering his sixth season and has played for three teams already, just like the Eagles current starting left guard when he signed a one-year deal in 2011. The parallels don't end there. Barbre, like Mathis in his first year with the team, is 29-years old and has a mid-round pedigree (4th round in 2007 by Green Bay). The pair also have similar versatility, as both play multiple position across the offensive line. Barbre, again like Mathis following the lockout, is just looking for a chance to prove himself to the league.
The former Packer, Dolphin and two-time Seahawk enters a crowded pair of interior and exterior battles for depth on the offensive line. With Todd Herremans, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Mathis all coming off of injuries and/or surgeries and rookie Lane Johnson still learning the tackle position, Barbre's chance to prove himself may come early if he can make the roster. Johnson like Danny Watkins in 2011, is new to the offensive line and still developing at that position. If the Eagles need to keep Johnson on the bench for a few weeks (like Watkins), Herremans may move back to right tackle during the learning process. That move could open up a major opportunity for Barbre.
The five-year veteran has only started in 7 games during his career, but if he can beat out Julian Vandervalde, Matt Tennant and Nate Menkin for a roster spot, he could be in line to start a few more. Mathis could just be blowing smoke for his buddy, but if Barbre is as good as he was billed the Eagles will be in great shape entering this season. As the Eagles learned last season, depth on the offensive line is key. Barbre could be a major reinforcement, if he can show the coaching staff that he can play at a high level and come close to mimicking Mathis' rise in the NFL.