Brandon Graham said his good-byes to the Philadelphia media, giving each reporter a hug as they filed through the exit of the locker room a day after the New Orleans Saints ended the Eagles’ season in mid-January.
A pending free agent, Graham had no idea if he would ever be back in that locker room again or see many of the same faces he saw when he arrived in town as the Eagles first-round draft pick back in 2010. He stopped by to talk with executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman after saying farewell to reporters
“I felt good leaving the room,” said Graham on a conference call Friday evening. “I really still didn’t know how this thing would go, but I knew how fast everything would start to hit me when free agency started, but I knew I always wanted to check what Philly had to offer first before anything.”
Graham never made it to free agency. On Friday, he and the Eagles agreed on a three-year contract that will pay him $40 million and keep the defensive end in town until he turns 34 – provided, of course, he continues to produce.
“Honestly me and my family love our situation here in Philly,” said Graham. “I’ve done well with what I’ve been given already and saving my money. I wasn’t that far off from where I wanted to be with the Eagles. We ended up making it work. I feel like we built something here and I want to finish it out if it made sense and it ended up making sense.
“I just want to thank Howie and coach (Doug Pederson) and (owner) Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie for believing in me one more time. I think for me it was a no brainer.”
Graham owns the seventh most sacks in franchise history with 42.5 and leads the team with 61 tackles for loss and 12 forced fumbles since 2014. He was part of a defensive line in 2018 that led the NFL in sacks (36.5), quarterback hits (119), and total pressures (169).
“I still got some goals I’m trying to accomplish … Hopefully win another ring and hopefully another party on Broad Street,” said Graham who made one of the greatest plays in team history when he strip-sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII to force a key turnover late in the Eagles’ 41-33 win last February.
Graham’s numbers may pale in comparison to some, but numbers don’t tell the whole story with him.
He is a strong locker room leader and well-liked by his teammates.
After hearing about Graham’s new deal, sure-fire Hall of Fame offensive tackle Joe Thomas sent out this Tweet: “Brandon Graham was one of the most underrated players I’ve ever played against. Competing against him for the first time was a total “WOW” moment because he plays so much tougher than the stats show. Congrats on the new deal, well deserved! Eagles have a great one!”
Signing Graham added some certainty to a defensive line that still has some questions, but not as many when it wasn’t known if Graham would return.
Defensive end Derek Barnett is on track to return from shoulder surgery that ended his season near the midpoint in 2018, but the return of Chris Long and Michael Bennett is still up in the air. Even though Bennett is still under contract, he has a $7.2 million salary cap hit. Long has a voidable contract that would save the Eagles $5.3 million if they released him.
“We have some great players and for me I hope to be able to play with all of them,” said Graham. “I didn’t think I was going to be a part of it, not knowing what’s going to happen because so many different things can happen and you don’t really know how people feel. I’m just happy I’m still in the big plan with the Eagles, and I know Howie and those guys will take care of the rest.”