Re-signing Brandon Graham should be an offseason priority for the Eagles…but will it?

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The Eagles Defense has been monstrous this year. Jim Schwartz has pushed his pass rush to a completely new level of domination in his second season as Defensive coordinator and while the emergence of Derek Barnett and depth along the line have been well praised, there is one player who has gone continually underrated. His name, is Brandon Graham.

With 29 tackles and a team-leading 6.0 sacks this season, Graham has been a reliable provider of excellence on the defensive front. His 6.0 sacks this year are the second highest single-season total of his NFL career and simply do not do his presence justice…but his long-term future with the team is something that is rarely discussed. Something that completely contrasts the future of the defensive line.

There has been an intricate level of attention paid to strengthening the defensive line. The Eagles went out and re-signed Fletcher Cox not too long ago, handing him a groundbreaking extension that set the tone for every defensive tackle seeking a payday. Among Howie Roseman’s recent contract extensions was Vinny Curry. The local product penned his future with the team prior to the start of last season as the Eagles sought to build for the bigger picture. That ethos was cemented with the drafting of Tennessee’s Derek Barnett. If that still wasn’t enough, the Eagles then went out and extended Timmy Jernigan, fortifying the interior pass rush until 2021. So where does Brandon Graham sit in all of this?

Vinny Curry was rewarded for his efforts, as Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox were too. But Graham, who followed his 59 tackle, 5.5 sack campaign with 6 in just ten games this year, remains un-negotiated and unaccounted for. The Eagles have adopted a selfless mentality, but their bank account doesn’t offer such generosity.

After securing the services of Jernigan for four more years, the Eagles are left with just $2,627,587 in cap space (per OverTheCap.) When you factor in that the team have a slew of upcoming free agents including LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffery, Nigel Bradham, Patrick Robinson, Trey Burton, the Eagles are simply going to have to create some room somewhere.

The cap situation for the Eagles is only set to regress. By backloading contracts in the veins of Lane Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins and Zach Ertz for example, Howie Roseman has been able to build a championship contending team for now, while working on building through the draft to balance out the huge payrolls that are set to sting in the years to come. Brandon Graham has just one season left in Philadelphia before he’s set to walk into free agency…and there have been no whispers at all of an extension.

If the Eagles believe that Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry are the future of the defensive end position, then milking one last impressive year out of one of the most consistent defensive ends in the league at least gives them a chance to prepare for the future and further fortify the position…but the real question is, why would Graham want to leave?

He’s playing on a team that is contending for an NFC Crown and potentially their first Super Bowl appearance in over ten years. It should be within the interest of both parties to negotiate an extension, but the Eagles are running on borrowed time and borrowed money. The window to keep the 29-year old in Philadelphia may soon be closing. Regardless of what happens this year, or even if Graham opts to stay for his contract year and earn an extension, the Eagles will have a big-time decision to make.

Can they afford to pay Brandon Graham the contract he deserves? If they can’t, what happens next? There is still plenty of time remaining in the regular season for things to change and other circumstances to tilt the balance, but Brandon Graham is easily one of the top performers in this Defense and has been since his 2012 breakout and that loss to Cincinnati that sparked it all.

There is a sense of uncertainty swirling around the defensive end position. Will Vinny Curry be ready to step up and claim the kingdom for his own? Or will the Eagles instead re-invest in Brandon Graham one more time?

 

 

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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