Evan Mathis has an idea what Allen Barbre is going through. A third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2005, the journeyman guard-turned-stalwart along the Eagles offensive line was an unheralded, afterthought of a signing in the much celebrated yet ultimately disappointing free agent class splash of 2011. Mathis had played six NFL seasons with three teams and inked a one-year deal reportedly worth a total of just $735,000, the veteran minimum. Lo and behold, he won the starting left guard spot and ended up becoming far and away the best move of that offseason. A year later, Mathis cashed in with a lucrative five-year contract and remains the offensive line's best, most steady performer.
Allen Barbre, a fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2007, also spent the first six seasons of his career with three teams. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season when, as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. When Barbre's suspension was over, the Seahawks released him and he was out a job. The Eagles immediately had Barbre in for a workout when they were in search of a center following Jason Kelce's torn ACL. They were intrigued by his skill set but ultimately did not sign him because he had never played the position before.
"They said they were interested, but that was it," Barbre recalled.
Fast forward to the 2013 offseason. The Eagles, searching for versatility and depth along the offensive line, reached out to Barbre and his agent again. This time, a deal was consummated.
Early in the offseason workouts, Mathis recognized Barbre's talent and even said in an interview that he thought he was a starting-caliber offensive lineman in the NFL. Perhaps he saw a little bit of himself in his new teammate.
"Allen and I have similar physical qualities," Mathis said."I don't want to toot my own horn when talking about Al, but he's a physical guy. He's strong. He's very athletic. He knows the game of football. He'sbounced around a little bit. Hess dealt with some things that get in the way of getting in a groove with your career like injuries, the suspension and things like that. He's been dedicated. He's put in the work. He showed us what kind of player he was in OTAs. He kept everything going in Training Camp and preseason. He's continued to get better and better. He's a guy who can play four spots on that line at a high level."
When Jason Peters had to leave the game against the Packers with a quadriceps injury, Barbre stepped in at left tackle – and dominated. He manhandled Clay Matthews at the point of attack, particularly in the run game, even lifting him up and throwing him a few feet on one play. If Peters is unable to play against Washington on Sunday, the Eagles know they have a more than capable replacement ready to go.
"This league's all about opportunities, and I'm thankful for my opportunity here," Barbre said."You just never know, really, so you just have to work hard and stay ready."