Brandon Brooks was a good player.
He wasn’t great until he arrived in Philadelphia. In hindsight, that’s what makes his signing in 2016 so impressive.
And after Brooks inked a new four-year, $56.2 million extension on Monday morning, it’s becoming clear that he’s going to go down as one of the greatest free agent acquisitions in Eagles history. Heck, he could end up being the greatest.
He’s already put himself in the conversation with Troy Vincent, Jon Runyan, Malcolm Jenkins and Nick Foles.
When the Eagles signed Brooks in the 2016 offseason, he was 26 and had just finished up the fourth and final year of his rookie contract with the Houston Texans. He was happy to leave that franchise and start fresh somewhere else. While the Texans clearly didn’t value Brooks enough, the Eagles did. They saw the potential for Brooks to be more than a good player. They gave him a five-year, $40 million deal, which sounded like a lot at the time. Obviously, that ended up being a steal.
I remember being on Philly Sports Talk the day Brooks signed with the Eagles in 2016. I agreed with the Eagles’ assessment of Brooks. He wasn’t great yet, but he could be. That day, I said I thought Brooks would end up being a Pro Bowler. This is where the bragging portion of this column ends.
To be fair, at that time, I had a little more knowledge of Brooks than most folks in Philly. I’ve known Brooks since his rookie year in 2012 from my time covering the Houston Texans from 2012-14. I watched as Brooks went from a third-round rookie who couldn’t get on the field to a solid starter and fully expected him to take another step in his career.
While in Houston, I saw the power, athleticism and untapped potential inside the 330-pound guard. I watched day after day in training camp when he was the only offensive lineman on the roster strong and quick enough to match up with Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
And long before his battle with anxiety became public or his recovery from Achilles surgery, I remember the first time I saw Brooks’ ability to overcome adversity. In 2012, Brooks was in a position battle with fourth-round pick Ben Jones. Brooks is a smart guy, graduated from Miami (Ohio), but Jones is somewhat of a football savant. Both were rookies, yet despite Brooks’ obvious athletic advantage, Jones won the job. But after working his way off the inactive list, Brooks began to split reps at right guard and became the starter in 2013. He hasn’t looked back since.
On Monday, I asked Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland for something he learned about Brooks after the Eagles acquired him.
What an athlete,” Stoutland answered. “He’s such a big man, but you don’t realize what a great athlete he is. He’s very light on his feet. He’s an extremely athletic individual.
So how did Brooks go from good to great?
The Eagles helped him to harness his unique blend of size and athleticism and match it with sound technique and great coaching. Stoutland is the best offensive line coach Brooks has had in the NFL. And in Philly, Brooks was plopped at right guard between one of the best centers and one of the best tackles in the NFL. The Eagles gave Brooks every opportunity to succeed and he’s exceeded expectations.
In two of his three seasons as an Eagle, Brooks has been a Pro Bowler. He’s well on his way to a third consecutive Pro Bowl nod and after playing like the best guard in the league this season, now he’s gonna get paid like it.
Brooks isn’t good anymore. He’s great. Brooks deserves credit for that, but so do the Eagles. They brought him in and helped bring that greatness out of him.
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