Brandon Graham

Extension Candidate: Brandon Graham

Last year, the Eagles tacked some incentives onto Brandon Graham‘s deal amidst rumblings that he was considering a holdout. Graham is once again pushing for an extension as he nears his walk year, but this time around, it’ll take more than an extra $1.5MM in performance bonuses to satisfy him. 

Graham is among the best 4-3 defensive ends in the game today, but his current salary does not reflect his performance. His average of $6.5MM/year on his current contract ranks 20th among 4-3 DEs, despite the fact that he graded out as the eighth-best overall edge defender in the league last year.

The veteran is coming off of a career-high 9.5 sacks and even iced the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory with his late-game strip sack of Tom Brady. Even though he celebrated his 30th birthday in April, he has plenty of juice as he sits across from GM Howie Roseman at the table.

Recently, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com predicted that Graham would not accept anything less than Everson Griffen‘s four-year, $58MM extension with the Vikings, which includes $18.8MM in full guarantees. Graham is 30, but Griffen is a few months older than him and is arguably the lesser player of the two, despite his 13 sacks in 2017.

The Eagles want to keep Graham in the fold, but their tight cap situation may limit how far they can go. A creative workaround for both sides may be to give Graham an even greater guarantee percentage than Griffen. After the Vikings gave Griffen a healthy 32.4% fully guaranteed at signing, the Eagles may be willing to push that number closer to 40% in order to shave some dollars off of the overall total. It wouldn’t be completely unprecedented – the Giants guaranteed $40MM of Olivier Vernon‘s $85MM free agent deal in 2016, which accounts for 47% of his deal.

Graham’s age and recent offseason ankle surgery may give the Eagles some pause about a hefty guarantee, but the former first round pick has not missed significant time since the 2011 season. There are worse bets to make, and a fat guarantee could give the Eagles the flexibility they’ll need to retain players like running back Jay Ajayi, cornerback Ronald Darby, and wide receiver Nelson Agholor down the line.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Notes: Brandon Graham, Alshon Jeffrey, Johnston

While defensive end Brandon Graham is set to be a free agent at the end of the year, it doesn’t appear the Eagles are in any rush to lock him up, writes Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Shorr-Parks thinks it’s “unlikely that Graham gets a new deal before the season.” He adds that the ankle injury Graham is currently recovering from may play into the team’s reluctance to get something done this offseason.

Graham has been with the Eagles since he was drafted in the first round by the team back in 2010. Since then, he’s racked up 38.5 sacks, including 9.5 last season. He notably strip sacked Tom Brady in this year’s Super Bowl to help seal the Eagles’ win. Despite his Super Bowl heroics, Shorr-Parks say “all indications still point to Graham becoming a free agent next offseason” rather than receiving an extension.

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Speaking of Graham, his status for week one remains unclear, according to Shorr-Parks. He had ankle surgery in April and is “still walking in a boot and using crutches to get around.” Teammate Alshon Jeffery, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, “seems to be a much safer bet to play in Week 1” writes Shorr-Parks, who adds “all indications are that he will be ready.”
  • The Eagles moved on from punter Donnie Jones this offseason and replaced him with second-year player Cameron Johnston. While the Eagles are happy with Johnston, who hasn’t attempted a regular season punt in his career, Shorr-Parks thinks it “wouldn’t be surprising” if the Eagles had a veteran punter on standby that they could sign in case Johnston falters this preseason.
  • In case you missed it, the Eagles have reportedly been impressed with backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld this offseason.

 

Latest On Eagles, Brandon Graham

Back in February, Eagles linebacker/defensive end Brandon Graham said he was pushing for an extension on his contract. Now on the cusp of his walk year, Graham says he is willing to play out the final year of his deal (Twitter link via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer). 

In 2017, Graham racked up a career high 9.5 sacks to go along with 47 total tackles. He also graded out as the eighth-best edge defender in the NFL with a 91.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus, nearly matching his 93.9 grade from 2016. Presumably, Graham is looking for a contract that will reflect his performance as one of the league’s top defensive ends.

Last year, the Eagles rewarded Graham with an extra $1.5MM in incentives for the final two years of his deal as a showing of good faith. His next deal will probably require a more substantial bump. Graham’s $8MM cap number for 2018, which ranks just 15th amongst 4-3 DEs in the NFL.

After dealing with a serious cap crunch this offseason, the Eagles will be wary of overextending themselves on a new deal for Graham. At the same time, they’ll run the risk of Graham pricing himself out of their range if he turns in another excellent season. In March, the Eagles watched defensive end Vinny Curry sign a three-year, $23MM free agent deal with the Bucs. Though Curry is a solid player in his own right, Graham stands to command considerably higher offers if he reaches the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Eagles, Gronk, Clayborn

Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com does not believe that there will be any tension between Carson Wentz and Nick Foles this year, but he does say that Foles is universally loved in the Eagles‘ locker room. Given that, and given that Foles led the club to its first Super Bowl victory in the wake of Wentz’s ACL tear last season, Shorr-Parks suggests that there is at least a small part of Wentz that feels the need to “re-prove himself” to his team. Shorr-Parks wonders if that desire will impact how quickly Wentz returns to the field and how he interacts with his veteran backup this year.

Let’s round up a few more east notes, starting with several additional items out of Philadelphia:

  • In the same piece linked above, Shorr-Parks says “it appears obvious” that the Eagles do not plan on paying DE Brandon Graham until next offseason at the earliest. Graham will be eligible for free agency at that point, but he is still seeking a long-term extension from Philadelphia prior to that, and Shorr-Parks’ suggestion is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that the Eagles were said to be working on a new contract for Graham in November (and in light of Graham’s on-field performance).
  • In two separate pieces, Shorr-Parks breaks down the Eagles’ current roster into long shots, locks, bubble players, and wildcards, and he also takes a look at some of the biggest names still remaining on the free agent market and whether Philadelphia could be interested in some of those players. He thinks the Eagles could be in play for some of the top available DBs — like Kenny Vaccaro and Bashaud Breeland — but does not see a fit for top WR Dez Bryant or LB Brian Cushing (though he thinks a reunion with Jeremy Maclin should not be ruled out).
  • Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com evaluates the Giants‘ top positional battles going into OTAs, and he believes the fight for the backup QB job is the most intriguing. Second-year pro Davis Webb has a stronger arm than rookie Kyle Lauletta, but Lauletta receives high marks for his intelligence and accuracy, plus he was drafted by Big Blue’s new regime. Whoever wins the job will be the favorite to ultimately succeed Eli Manning.
  • It is unclear whether Rob Gronkowski will report to the Patriots for Phase 3 of the team’s offseason program, which begins tomorrow, though Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Gronk is still putting in plenty of time at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which he says has him feeling good from a conditioning perspective. Phase 3 will be the last chance for Gronkowski and Tom Brady — who is also yet to attend OTAs — to get some multiple-week football work in with the majority of their teammates before training camp. Brady has frequently touted the importance of Phase 3, so it would be notable if he does not attend.
  • Adrian Clayborn, the Patriots‘ top free agent acquisition this offseason, tweaked his quad during recent workouts, per Reiss. Clayborn could be limited for Phase 3 of OTAs, but he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

East Notes: Pats, Eagles, Gregory, Redskins

Josh McDaniels said recently his role remains the same, despite Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick helping to convince him to stay and thus spurn the Colts. But the longtime Patriots offensive coordinator’s presence in what’s generally a “notoriously small” draft room was indeed an expansion of McDaniels’ responsibilities, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Although many teams may have written McDaniels off after his controversial flip-flop, he was a perennial fixture in HC carousels leading up to his 11th-hour decision to back out of a Colts deal. But the 42-year-old assistant insists he still wants to be a head coach, and taking part in draft-day proceedings would stand to further bolster those hopes.

Here’s the latest from the Easts:

  • The surgery Brandon Graham underwent will keep him out for the entirety of the Eagles‘ offseason program. Graham is hopeful he will be ready for training camp, per Les Bowen of Philly.com. The 30-year-old defensive end decided to go under the knife to accelerate the healing process from a troublesome high ankle sprain suffered on Christmas night. Graham remains in pursuit of an Eagles extension. His contract expires after the 2018 season.
  • Mychal Kendricks also underwent offseason surgery, per Bowen. The veteran linebacker and perpetual trade-block mainstay had minor ankle surgery. This duo follows Timmy Jernigan and Derek Barnett among Eagles defenders to undergo offseason procedures.
  • Arie Kouandjio will undergo surgery, but his recovery time will be far longer than the Eagles’ spate of defensive players who opted for operations. The Redskins guard suffered an injury which Ian Rapoport of NFL.com is calling a partially torn quadriceps and will soon have surgery (Twitter link). It’s unclear at this point how long Kouandjio will be out, but Rapoport notes the recovery time will likely be several months. A recent report pegged Kouandjio as a possible IR candidate, but after this update categorizes the malady as a partially torn quad, the interior blocker may be able to avoid such a distinction.
  • Randy Gregory will apply for reinstatement soon, and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report notes a Cowboys front office source is optimistic the defensive end will be reinstated this year. Popped for repeated violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the former second-round pick has only played two games since the 2015 season.

Eagles Host DL Cedric Thornton

The Eagles recently hosted free agent defensive lineman Cedric Thornton for a workout, according to Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic (Twitter link).

Thornton is no stranger to Philadelphia, as he signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Arkansas in 2012. Thornton, now 29, went on to start 45 games for the Birds, and was extremely effective after the Eagles shifted to a 3-4 scheme under Chip Kelly in 2014. As an oversized defensive end, Thornton especially excelled against the run.

Thornton signed a four-year deal with the division-rival Cowboys in 2016, but made it only one season in Dallas before being released. He quickly resurfaced with Bills on a single-season pact, and ultimately appeared in 15 games and made three starts for Buffalo. During that time, Thornton posted 18 tackles and two sacks, but graded as the fifth-worst interior defender among 122 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Now that the Eagles are running a 4-3 front, Thornton would likely line up at defensive tackle if signed. Philadelphia is on the hunt for depth given that starting tackle Timmy Jernigan is expected to miss four-to-six months following back surgery, while defensive ends Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham (who recently underwent a minor ankle operation, per Tim McManus of ESPN.com) are also recovering from surgery. The Eagles have also looked at other free agent defenders in recent weeks, as they expressed interest in Terrell McClain before he signed with the Falcons and met with Courtney Upshaw.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Graham, Redskins

Eagles linebacker/defensive end Brandon Graham is ready to cash in after turning in the best season of his career. The 29-year-old (30 in April) has one more season to go on his contract, but he’s looking for an extension that will reflect his performance.

For me, it’s all about getting as much as you can while you can play because when it’s over, it’s over,” he said (via Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia). “I know Howie [Roseman] and those guys, if they want me here, they’re going to make sure that they get me here. For me, I want to be here. Everybody knows I want to be here. They see the passion I have and I’m happy to be able to bring the trophy back to Philly…Now, it’s just all about just making sense, just getting me protected for the future. Because obviously I want to retire here and I know I’m going to retire here because I’ve been here a long time. I would love to retire here. It’s all on what they want to do. I’m just going to embrace it, whatever it is.

In 2017, Graham racked up a career high 9.5 sacks to go along with 47 total tackles. He also graded out as the eighth-best edge defender in the NFL with a 91.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus, nearly matching his 93.9 grade from 2016.

Last year, the Eagles rewarded Graham with an extra $1.5MM in incentives for the final two years of his deal as a showing of good faith. This time around, Graham is looking for something more substantial as he enters the final year of his pact. As it stands, Graham is set to carry an $8MM cap number in 2018, which ranks just 13th amongst 4-3 DEs in the NFL.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Here’s a crazy scenario raised by Mike Florio of PFT: If Kirk Cousins is franchise tagged and signs the tender before March 14, Florio wonders aloud if the Redskins could back out of the Alex Smith trade. Cousins signing the tender would trigger a one-year, $34.47MM contract and it’s hard to see a team giving up a lot in a trade for a player who is only under contract for one year at that exorbitant price. As we learned on Thursday, Cousins could also fight a franchise tag by filing a grievance against Washington. Redskins president Bruce Allen is apparently thinking about going the petty route, but that could wind up backfiring. Ultimately, the best move the Redskins could make would be to do nothing and allow Cousins to hit the open market.
  • Many teams will consider parting with high-priced veterans this offseason, but the Redskins appear to have no real cap casualty candidates, as Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington writes. The Redskins, with roughly $31MM in cap space after factoring in Smith’s contract, don’t have much flexibility snce nearly all of their expensive players are necessary. The only potential cut would be defensive lineman Terrell McClain, who is set to carry a $4.7MM cap number in 2018. However, the Redskins wouldn’t save much by dropping him. Cutting tight end Jordan Reed, who has a $10.1MM cap hit, would only save the team $4.7MM when considering the dead money hit, so it seems likely that the team will hold on to him and see if he can stay healthy.
  • The Giants announced that they’ll keep multiple coaches from the previous staff.

NFC East Notes: Redskins, Cousins, Cowboys

The Redskins are reportedly no longer considering the $28.8MM transition tag for Kirk Cousins in 2018. Instead, Washington wants to evaluate the quarterback down the stretch of the season to determine whether it wants to use the $34.5MM franchise tag on him, sign him to a long-term deal, or allow him to test free agency unencumbered. That’s just fine with Cousins.

You know, I can understand the unique situation that it is, and you’re trying to find value in every player at every position,” Cousins told 106.7 The Fan (transcription via Chris Lingebach of CBS DC). “If you still need five more games, or five-plus, to make a decision, so be it, but I’d like to think that I’ve played a lot of football here. I’ve been here six years and I think the people in the building have gotten to know me, who I am as a man, who I am as a football player, what I’m about and who I’m gonna be going forward and I’d like to think they can make an informed decision regardless. But if they need five more games, so be it, but I understand the need to find value and understand what you’re getting.”

At 5-6, the Redskins have just a 6.7% chance of reaching the postseason, per Football Outsiders, but there is still plenty riding on these final games.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Recently, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated that he was backing down from his lawsuit threat against the NFL because the league promised to “get input from all the owners” on Roger Goodell‘s new deal, rather than leaving it up to just the Compensation Committee. No such deal has been made, however, according to NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart. Lockhart reiterated that the six-man committee has the sole power to approve an extension for the commissioner (link via PFT).
  • Redskins coach Jay Gruden says defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remains on course for returning from injured reserve this season (link via ESPN.com’s John Keim). Allen, who has missed the bulk of the season with a Lisfranc injury, can be activated off IR for the Week 15 game against the Cardinals.
  • Eagles defensive Brandon Graham registered his seventh sack of the season on Sunday and that triggered a $250K incentive in his 2017 contract, as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. By hitting that milestone, he also boosted his 2018 salary by $250K.
  • On Tuesday, the Giants announced that Eli Manning will be benched this week in favor of Geno Smith.

Eagles Working On Brandon Graham Extension

The Eagles are working on a new deal for defensive end Brandon Graham, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Graham has racked up six sacks this season — his career-high is 6.5 — and he currently ranks as the fifth-best edge defender in the league (out of 112 qualified players) per Pro Football Focus.

Brandon Graham (vertical)

Graham is still under club control through 2018 as a result of the four-year, $26.5MM deal he inked in 2015, a deal that looks like a bargain now. Despite some rumblings that he would hold out of training camp this summer, he never did so and firmly indicated that he never planned to hold out. Nonetheless, the Eagles did add incentives to his current deal in August and now it seems they are prepared to reward him even more.

Philadelphia, of course, is 9-1 and is on the short list of Super Bowl favorites. The team also has a history of being aggressive in locking up key members of its roster, even late in the season (the Eagles signed Timmy Jernigan to a lucrative multi-year deal several weeks ago).

As La Canfora notes, Graham is something of a late-bloomer, but he has thrived under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his impact goes far beyond his raw sack totals. He is a key cog in the club’s defensive success, and GM Howie Roseman is ready to pay him accordingly. La Canfora does say that the two sides have a fairly large gap to bridge, but the team’s interest in getting something done soon is genuine.

Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com (Twitter link) says that if Graham and the Eagles can agree to terms, his extension would likely lower his cap hit for 2018 (currently $7.5MM) to free up some space. After all, as Shorr-Parks observes in a separate piece, the cap hits for Jernigan’s new contract are out, and they are significant.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Amend Brandon Graham’s Deal

Although Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham is underpaid relative to his production, he elected not to hold out this year. Now, the Eagles have given him an opportunity to rake in more money on his current deal, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Graham, who’s halfway through the four-year, $26.5MM contract he signed with the Eagles in 2015, will have a chance to earn $1.5MM in incentives over the next two seasons.

Brandon Graham (vertical)

On top of his $6.5MM base salary this year, Graham will make $250K if he tallies more than seven but fewer than nine sacks. Exceeding nine sacks would mean an additional $250K for Graham. However, even if Graham totals fewer than nine sacks, he’ll pile up $250K with either a Pro Bowl trip on the original ballot or first- or second-team All-Pro honors.

Graham went second-team All-Pro last season, but it’s worth noting that the 29-year-old has never hit the seven-sack mark in an individual campaign. His personal best (6.5) came in 2015. But getting to seven or eight sacks in 2017 would increase his $6.5MM base salary for 2018 by $250K, while nine to 11 would bump it up by $500K. Twelve or more, which could be especially unrealistic for a player who combined for that many from 2015-16, would give him a $750K raise. A Pro Bowl nod shouldn’t be out of reach, however, and earning a trip this season would up Graham’s ’18 salary by $250K.

A seven-year veteran, Graham is fresh off the first 16-start campaign of his career, and while his traditional numbers were solid in 2016 and in the preceding years, he has stood out more in the eyes of the advanced stats crowd. Graham ranked as Pro Football Focus’ second-best edge defender among 110 qualifiers last year, and the outlet has typically assigned him excellent grades.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.