NEW ORLEANS – Typical Brandon Graham. Even while saying goodbye after what could very well have been his final game in an Eagles uniform, Graham was thinking more about the team than himself.
Graham became a beloved figure in this city the past few years after a rocky start to his career here back in 2010.
And because of his relentless play, his perennially positive outlook and of course one of the biggest defensive plays in franchise history, Graham will always be beloved around here.
Graham was very emotional after the Eagles’ 20-14 loss to the Saints in an NFC divisional playoff game at the Superdome Sunday.
He’s been here a long time, and he doesn’t want to leave.
But the realities of the salary cap will most likely force him to another team.
Graham will be a free agent this spring, and the Eagles have some serious cap issues and a young quarterback who needs a massive contract.
This will likely be Graham’s last major contract. He’s a talented and popular player, but signing a 30-year-old defensive end who had 4 1/2 sacks this past year to a huge contract probably isn’t part of the Eagles’ offseason plan.
I think about, it has been a long road, it has been nine years. I do not have any regrets, I have enjoyed this time if it is the end. At the end of the day, I am hoping I passed down some good stuff for them to keep in this organization, like a young DB, the next man up who now has to be the leader, to keep it going, keep it positive in here and keep everybody believing even when things get bad. Hopefully, that rubbed off on these boys and let the young guys see how we get through it, especially through adversity. You have to look at the positives. We have a bunch of good guys here that are going to feel this and be ready for next year.
Graham played 132 games in an Eagles uniform. Only three defensive linemen played more — Trent Cole (155), Kenny Clarke (148) and Vic Sears (131).
He has the sixth-most sacks in Eagles history with 42 ½. And of course, he had the strip-sack of Tom Brady that essentially clinched the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship.
He also has 3 ½ postseason sacks, just half a sack behind Derrick Burgess, Reggie White and Hugh Douglas for the team record.
The final one was the strip sack of Drew Brees late in the first quarter Sunday.
With the Eagles leading 14-0, Graham sacked Brees and nearly came up with the loose ball inside the Saints’ 40-yard-line.
But instead of securing the ball, he tried to take off for the end zone before he had control. The Saints were forced to punt, but it was an excruciating blown opportunity for Graham.
“It bounced up, man,” he said. “I wish I had fell on it, because that’s 21. We go up 21 there or 17 right there, and that helps our cause. We always say we wish we could have plays back. That’s one of them. But I still have no regrets. The ball bounced their way on that one.”
If this was Graham’s final game as an Eagle, that play was a good metaphor for the game.
The Eagles never stopped fighting. They just didn’t make the plays they had to make to beat a No. 1 seed coming off a bye week in their own building.
Graham was as emotional as anybody after the game. You know why.
Man, how we almost had that game right there. Went out there, we played hard, we just came up short. The emotions came because, man, it’s the last game of the season. I don’t know why the future holds, but if we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out like that.
He shook off the first-round bust label and won over just about everybody in a fan base that’s one of the hardest to please.
It seems like he’s been here forever. A lot of us wish he could be.
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