Eagles

Brandon Graham talks candidly about his contract

Brandon Graham talks candidly about his contract

It doesn't appear that Brandon Graham is going to be shy about this. 

He wants a new contract. 

The Eagles' star 29-year-old defensive end, pretty fresh off making the biggest play in Super Bowl LII (see story), was on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Quick Slants Wednesday night and was asked about his future. 

Here's what he said: 

"For me, it's all about getting as much as you can while you can play because when it's over, it's over. I know Howie (Roseman) and those guys, if they want me here, they're going to make sure that they get me here. For me, I want to be here. Everybody knows I want to be here. They see the passion I have and I'm happy to be able to bring the trophy back to Philly. Now, it's just all about just making sense, just getting me protected for the future. Because obviously I want to retire here and I know I'm going to retire here because I've been here a long time. I would love to retire here. It's all on what they want to do. I'm just going to embrace it, whatever it is."

Pretty clear. He wants a new deal. Obviously he wants a new deal. 

Graham had a career-high 9½ sacks in 2017 and was the Eagles' most disruptive pass rusher while also being dynamic for the team's NFL-best run defense. 

Graham is entering the final year of his current contract (a four-year deal from 2015) that will pay him a base salary of $7 million in 2018, but he's been playing at an extremely high level and he's watched as defensive line teammates Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and now Tim Jernigan have all cashed in. He understandably thinks it's now his turn. 

Before the start of last season, the Eagles added $1.5 million in incentives to the final two years of Graham's contract. At the time, it was a nice showing of good faith. 

You'll remember that Graham was missing for part of the Eagles' voluntary workout program last offseason. While it was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer that his absence was fueled by contract concerns and it was possible he would miss OTAs, that was never proven. Graham denied that report and showed up when OTAs began. Maybe there wasn't a dispute at the time, but it has been pretty clear that Graham wants a new contract. 

The real question surrounding all this is about what Graham is willing to do in an attempt to get a new deal. After all, he's under contract for this season and the first mandatory dates don't come until June. Would he be willing to get fined for missing a mandatory minicamp or even more substantial fines for missing training camp to prove a point? 

None of that is clear yet as the confetti from the Eagles' first Super Bowl championship has just been cleaned up. What is clear is that Graham wants a new contract and is seemingly deserving. Now, we'll just have to see how it all goes. 

Michael Bennett, Darren Sproles only veterans absent at OTAs

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Michael Bennett, Darren Sproles only veterans absent at OTAs

As the Eagles kick off their Organized Team Activities on Tuesday morning, there are just two players absent. 

Defensive lineman Michael Bennett and running back Darren Sproles aren’t on hand for the start of the voluntary workouts, head coach Doug Pederson said. 

“But we’ve communicated with them, we’ve stayed in touch with them,” Pederson said. “Sound like a broken record, but it is a voluntary program and two guys that I don’t have a lot of concern as far as their ability to help us win games because they’re veteran players and they know how to get themselves ready to go.”

Two guys absent out of 90 isn’t bad at all and Pederson seemed encouraged by the turnout. Earlier this spring, he was hopeful players wouldn’t relax too much as the team returns from winning a Super Bowl. 

It is noteworthy that Sproles and Bennett are missing, though. Sproles is recovering from a torn ACL and Bennett is a newcomer to Jim Schwartz’s defense. Sproles at least already knows the offense and how things work in Philly. 

Pederson said Bennett’s absence is unrelated to his pending criminal charges in Texas. Bennett’s next court date isn’t scheduled until June 27. While Bennett isn’t at the start of OTAs, Pederson does expect him to show up at some point. 

The head coach didn’t seem concerned about Bennett’s missing while he tries to learn a new defense. 

“I really don’t have any concern going forward with him, acclimating himself to the defense,” Pederson said. “You’ve been around long enough to be around Jim’s style and what we teach and it fits his strength and that’s roll off the ball as a D-lineman. It’s just a matter of getting him in here and around his teammates.” 

The Eagles’ first round of OTAs runs Tuesday through Thursday. They’ll be back on the field for OTAs for the next few weeks before the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. Because of expected rain, Tuesday’s practice will be held inside the team’s practice bubble at the NovaCare Complex. 

Carson Wentz will be on the practice field with his teammates during OTAs, but is still in rehab mode. There are other injured players who won’t be able to practice, like Brandon Graham, too.

Even some players who aren’t injured will be brought along slowly by Pederson after the short offseason following the Super Bowl. 

“We’ll do our best to manage some guys,” Pederson said. “We have a list of injured players and guys we want to make sure we rest during this time. You gotta understand that we’re a month later and so our full recovery time has been less. That’s something you have to understand. From that standpoint, I have to do my job and be smart with how we handle some of our veteran players.”

Top Eagles storylines heading into OTAs

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Top Eagles storylines heading into OTAs

Less than four months after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII in Minnesota, the whole team will be back together for the start of voluntary organized team activities on Tuesday. 

Eagles OTAs are from May 22-24, May 29, May 31-June 1 and June 4-7. After that, there’s a mandatory minicamp from June 12-14 before the long layoff leading into training camp in the summer. 

OTAs fall under Phase 3 of the 2011 CBA, which limits activity during this period. For the first time this spring, players are allowed to wear helmets for the 10 days of OTAs. The big difference between 2 and 3 is that now there can actually be some competition. While 1-on-1s aren’t allowed, team offense vs. team defense is finally OK with no contact. It’s not really football, but it’s something. 

Here are some storylines to watch over the next few weeks: 

No time off
Because the Eagles played into February, their offseason has been very short. It’s a good problem to have, of course, but it’s still a problem. This will be the first time the team is back together since the Super Bowl. Head coach Doug Pederson has been pretty vocal that he’d like to have all his players at these workouts, but they are voluntary by rule. 

“Look, this is a voluntary program. We know it,” Pederson said earlier this month. “I've been in touch with these guys and just staying on top of them and wishing they were here. But look, it's a voluntary program. These guys are veteran players. They know how to get themselves prepared.”

It’ll be up to Pederson to manage his veteran players in the spring and summer after the short offseason. His experience as a player should help him understand how important rest is after a deep playoff run. 

The new guys
The Eagles are back together, but the team doesn’t look exactly like the one that won last season's Super Bowl. Guys like Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Vinny Curry, LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson and Beau Allen are gone. 

And there are plenty of newcomers, including Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Mike Wallace, Matt Jones and others joining the team. 

The 2017 team had special chemistry. If the 2018 team has a chance to win a title, this group is going to need to mesh in a similar way. 

Unanswered questions 
Bennett is awaiting a criminal case for allegedly pushing an elderly paraplegic woman. Jay Ajayi is facing a lawsuit for allegedly trashing an L.A. mansion. Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Alshon Jeffery all had offseason surgery. 

Plenty to ask these guys. 

Still the starter
Carson Wentz has been amping up his rehab but he’s still not cleared for anything other than rehab, so all the first-team reps this spring are going to go to Nick Foles. Nate Sudfeld will get some extra work in his absence too. 

Trip to D.C.
Last week, we learned the Eagles were invited to the White House on June 5 and that they’re working on the logistics of a visit. One of the questions is about how many of their players will attend and what else they’re going to do while in D.C. June 5 is a practice day, so we’ll see how the Eagles handle that too.