Corey Graham

Stay or Go — Will both Grahams return?

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Stay or Go — Will both Grahams return?

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Nathan Gerry
: Gerry, a fifth-round pick last year, seems to be a decent late-round linebacker prospect. He was a core special teamer — his 180 snaps were sixth-most on the team — on a roster where the linebackers are generally older guys (with the exception of oft-injured Jordan Hicks). A roster spot will be there for the taking if Gerry has a good training camp, especially with Trey Burton likely to leave and Corey Clement’s role on offense expected to grow.

Verdict: STAYS — as a special teamer

Dave: As a rookie, Gerry switched from safety to linebacker but didn't get a chance to play much on defense. He did find a role on special teams. He played in 10 regular-season games and every postseason game, including Super Bowl LII.

Verdict: STAYS

Shelton Gibson
: Gibson, a fifth-round pick last year, got only 17 snaps on offense and caught just two passes for 11 yards. He’ll be invited back to camp, but for once, the Eagles have depth at wide receiver, and young guys like Mack Hollins and Johnson are well ahead of Gibson in the Eagles' eyes. Even if Torrey Smith doesn't return, Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery and Hollins have spots locked up. Gibson's lack of special teams value will play a role.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: After a mostly terrible training camp, Gibson was inactive for the first 10 games of the 2017 season before playing a small role on special teams down the stretch. He still hasn't shown his potential as a fifth-round speed receiver, but he'll get another chance. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
: Goode was one of those underrated players that every Super Bowl team seems to have but nobody talks about. He's a terrific special teamer — he was third behind Kamu Grugier-Hill and Burton with 294 special teams snaps — got 200 snaps at linebacker and held his own defensively. Goode is a free agent, and you can probably keep him at minimum wage.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Since 2013, Goode has appeared in 61 Eagles games. Not the best linebacker but a solid special teamer. Goode was on a one-year deal in 2017 so he's an unrestricted free agent-to-be. At 28, he isn't a viable option on defense, but I never thought he'd be here this long. 

Verdict: STAYS

Brandon Graham
: Graham has another year left on his deal. He’s now one of the NFL's top outside pass rushers with a career-high 9½ sacks this year and his first Pro Bowl honors. But he turns 30 this spring, and Derek Barnett is under contract with modest cap figures through 2020. The team can't afford to keep both Graham and Vinny Curry. Graham is obviously the superior player, but how difficult will it be for the Eagles to keep him? I expect he’ll look for a long-term deal in the $12-13 million per year range. He'll get it. I'm just not sure where.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: The Eagles didn't give Graham a new contract last offseason but they added some incentives to the last two years of his deal. As their most disruptive pass rusher, his strip-sack on Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII was the biggest play of the game. The Eagles have to decide if they're going to break the bank but for now, he'll be a huge part of the 2018 season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Corey Graham
: Corey Graham is another one of those one-year contract veterans who made a big impact this season both on defense and special teams. He’ll turn 33 before camp opens but is in tremendous shape. He's played in 171 of a possible 176 games in his 11-year career and shows no sign of dropping off. Graham is also a terrific natural leader who was extremely vocal during the Super Bowl run. The Eagles don't really have any young safeties knocking on the door, so as long as Graham is willing to accept another cap-friendly contract, I don't see a reason not to re-sign him.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Signing Graham was one of the best moves Howie Roseman pulled off last summer. Having a quality third safety freed up Malcolm Jenkins to slide into the slot when needed and allowed the Eagles to use a smaller lineup in their dime package. Graham is a free agent and the Eagles might try to go younger, but they should think about bringing him back.

Verdict: STAYS

Examining Eagles' 14 free agents

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Examining Eagles' 14 free agents

Toward the end of their magical playoff run, the Eagles started realizing that as special as the 2017 team was, it was going to change before the 2018 season. 

They were right. 

While most of the starters will return, the team is going to change plenty over the next few months and it'll have a different feel by the time the season kicks off in September. 

The Eagles have 14 players from last year's team who will become free agents on March 14, when the new league year begins. Until then, the Birds will have exclusive negotiating rights with the unrestricted free agents. 

Here's a look at all of them: 

Nigel Bradham
Bradham is at the top of the list because he's clearly the most important of the bunch and the only no-doubt-about-it starter on the list. His 2017 season actually started off a little slow, but then he really picked it up. And when Jordan Hicks went down in October, Bradham took over as the defensive signal caller. His role on the Super Bowl-winning team probably wasn't emphasized enough. Jim Schwartz clearly thinks a lot of Bradham, who played under him in 2014 in Buffalo, as well. 

So how much is Bradham worth? It's tricky. Mychal Kendricks is the highest-paid linebacker on the team and will have a base salary of nearly $6 million in 2018. Meanwhile, Hicks would have been in line for a payday, but he's now recovering from another Achilles tear and is still cheap on his rookie contract. Based on the Spotrac market value tool, Bradham is worth around $5.9 million per season. They look at guys like K.J. Wright, Kiko Alonso and Malcolm Smith as comparable players. Bradham is a little older than those guys, but that's probably where his representation will start. Wright's four-year deal was worth $27 million, Alonso's four-year deal was worth nearly $29M and Smith's five-year deal was worth $26.5M. 

Trey Burton 
Burton might have thrown a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, but he's known more for his ability to catch the ball. The Eagles would probably love to bring Burton back for another season, but there's a chance that the secret about the 26-year-old tight end is out. He can catch. The Eagles tried to lock him up during the 2016 season, but couldn't get it done and now he might be out of their price range, especially with Zach Ertz already on the roster making a ton of money at the position. Spotrac estimates his annual value at $7 million. 

Patrick Robinson
During training camp, Robinson was so bad everyone thought there was a good shot he'd be cut. But then the team traded for Ronald Darby, which moved the veteran into the nickel corner role and he never looked back. He was a huge part of the 2017 Eagles' success. The 30-year-old corner joined the Eagles on a one-year prove-it deal and he proved he can play. Now, how much is a 30-year-old slot corner worth? We're about to find out. Spotrac values him at $6.7M, but it's really hard to know. Meanwhile, cornerback was once a weakness for the Eagles, but now their depth at the position is a strength. They'll bring back Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. It might be hard to justify signing Robinson and blocking Jones from getting on the field. 

Beau Allen
Over the last two years, Allen worked so hard to prove he could play in a 4-3 scheme and in the process, he doubled his list of suitors this offseason. He can play in either front, which should make him an appealing name for a lot of teams. Allen ended up playing just as much as Tim Jernigan down the stretch, but the Eagles already paid Jernigan ... and the rest of the starters on the defensive line. Would they really prioritize paying a rotational player now? Remember, the team still has a depth piece in Destiny Vaeao and drafted Elijah Qualls in the sixth round last spring. 

Darren Sproles
Sproles is a 34-year-old running back coming off a torn ACL and a broken hand. But it still might make sense for the Eagles to bring him back. While Corey Clement proved to be a receiving threat — he had 100 yards receiving in the Super Bowl! — he's not a Sproles-level threat. The screen game eventually came around, but that was a big element of the offense the Eagles seemed to be missing when Sproles first went down. All signs point toward a comeback for the veteran, but he hasn't definitively said so yet. 

Corey Graham
Graham didn't join the Eagles until early August on a one-year deal and it ended up being a solid move by Howie Roseman and the front office. Graham ended up playing 36 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2017 as the third safety. Having Graham allowed Malcolm Jenkins to play down in the slot for matchup purposes. But Graham will turn 33 in July. 

LeGarrette Blount
Coming in on a one-year deal in May, Blount had a pretty good season. During a year in which he turned 31, the veteran rushed for 766 yards in the regular season. And in the Super Bowl, he ran like a monster, going for 90 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. But Blount also saw his workload diminish after the addition of Jay Ajayi. The team still has Ajayi and will bring back Clement. 

Kenjon Barner
He was on the street until late September when the Eagles brought him back. While Barner didn't have much of a role on offense, he did become the Eagles' primary kick and punt returner. He returned 27 punts for 240 yards (8.9) and had 10 kick returns for 194 yards (19.4). His 8.9 punt return average was 11th in the NFL. 

Najee Goode
The Eagles brought back Goode on another one-year deal last March and Goode again filled the role of special teams player and occasional defensive role player. It's hard to believe, but Goode has played for the Eagles in every season since 2013. The 27-year-old has 61 games and four starts under his belt with the Eagles. 

Caleb Sturgis
Sturgis got hurt and then had to watch as rookie Jake Elliott took his job. Even with his missed extra points, Elliott made so many big kicks last year that he's not going to be giving that job back anytime soon. The shame of it for Sturgis is that he was actually a pretty good kicker for the Eagles. At least he'll get a Super Bowl ring. 

Dannell Ellerbe
For most of the 2017 season, Ellerbe was on his couch. The 32-year-old joined the Eagles in November and eventually took over as the team's starting middle linebacker. But because of how much time the Eagles spent in their nickel package, he never really played a lot. He played just three snaps in Super Bowl LII. The Eagles need to upgrade their linebacker depth. 

Will Beatty
Like Ellerbe, Beatty didn't have a team until the Eagles brought him into their facility in November. Beatty played in the regular-season finale but was inactive throughout the playoffs. His primary role was helping on the scout team. The Eagles need to find better tackle depth. 

Bryan Braman
The Eagles needed a boost on special teams so they brought Braman back on Dec. 12. He provided Dave Fipp's unit a spark, but he's a 30-year-old special teamer who offers nothing on defense. 

Jaylen Watkins (RFA)
It's unlikely there will be a bunch of teams knocking down Watkins' door, but he became a nice depth piece for the Eagles in 2017 and when they needed him, he played well. If the Eagles want him back, he'll be back. They can use an original-round tender (he was a fourth-rounder) on him, which would pretty much guarantee his return. 

Eagles' vets warn about Super Bowl nonsense

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Eagles' vets warn about Super Bowl nonsense

They've never experienced anything like it before, and they never will again.

The Super Bowl and the week leading up to it are like nothing else in sports. Or on Earth.

It's seven days of insanity, and the Eagles' numerous Super Bowl veterans have been counseling the rest of the team since the NFC Championship Game victory not only on what they're about to face but also how to deal with it.

"They might think it's going to be like a bowl game," Torrey Smith said. "But it's nothing like a bowl game."

The Eagles spent the last week practicing in the relative calm of the NovaCare Complex in South Philly. On Sunday, the team travels to Minneapolis for a week of hype leading up to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium a week later.

"There's a lot going on," said Corey Graham, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2012. "A lot of parties. A lot of shows, events. Your family wants your time. They want to enjoy it with you. Everyone's always calling you for this and for that. 

"You have to try to avoid all that. If you're not a strong-minded person and don't know how to say no, you can get caught up in it. You have to realize why you're there. You're there for a football game. You're not there to enjoy it. 

"You're not there to be out there partying and going to all that nonsense. The better you are at understanding the main purpose, the better off you'll be."

Smith and Graham are among six Eagles on the 53-man roster who've played in a Super Bowl: Smith, Graham and Donnell Ellerbe with the Ravens, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long with the Patriots, Malcolm Jenkins with the Saints and Will Beatty with the Giants. Chris Maragos, who's on injured reserve, won one with the Seahawks. 

Doug Pederson has used most of those guys in the past week to address the players, both as a group and individually, to share their wisdom and experience.

“You’ve got to be a professional," Blount said. "I told the young guys that you've just got to be a professional. It’s hard to control your emotions. 

"As rookies and stuff, even if they’ve played in a national championship, they still haven’t played in a game of this magnitude. It’s tough. It’s a long week, and you’ve just got to control your emotions.

“There’s going to be a lot of distractions as far as family and friends and media. You’ve got to put all that in the drawer, toss all that aside for however long it takes us to prepare for this game. 

"Don’t worry about anything that’s going to cause you any stress or any kind of emotional backup. Whatever it might be, you just put it away and focus 100 percent on this game."

Maragos said one positive that's come out of his season-ending knee injury is his ability to see the big picture in a way the guys on the active roster can't.

"Unfortunately, I'm not playing, but I'm grateful to have the opportunity to see things from a broader perspective," Maragos said. "All these guys are narrowed in on their job and what they're doing and maybe I can really give these guys a different viewpoint, having been through it.

"Just give these guys a foreshadowing of what's to come. 'Hey, listen, on this day, expect this, on this day, expect that.' Trying to give them the ability to kind of see things ahead of time, so they're a little bit more prepared when they get there."

Media Night is Monday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Tuesday through Thursday, there will be extensive media obligations at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Friday and Saturday everything shuts down. Sunday is game day.

It will take forever to get here.

"Don't get caught up in all the stuff that's going on outside," Graham said. "Don’t get caught up with your family and all the festivities and all the nonsense. Keep it exactly the same way it is when you're at home. 

"Normal work week. If you normally get your message on Tuesday and your chiropractor on Wednesday and all that stuff, keep it the same. Don't do anything different. 

"Obviously it's an important event and a great time for you and your family, but don't get caught up in the nonsense. You can enjoy it afterward. You’ve got to focus on the task at hand because with the Super Bowl, if you're not winning, it's a waste of time."