Why pay $13 million a year for a defensive end who had four sacks last year, has averaged less than five sacks in his nine-year NFL career, has never made a Pro Bowl and turns 31 next month?
The simple answer is Brandon Graham played better than his numbers last year.
When you grade him out, taking into consideration the consistent pressure he generated, his tremendous effort against the run even at 270 pounds and just how active he is until the whistle on every snap, his value goes way beyond the sack numbers. Always has.
There’s a reason all the analytics sites rank Graham among the most effective edge rushers in the league year after year, no matter what his sack total looks like.
And if you doubt that, just ask Fletcher Cox what it’s meant to his brilliant career having B.G. lining up alongside him on the Eagles’ defensive line these last seven years.
But it goes deeper than that. A lot deeper.
First, you have to remember that B.G. had offseason ankle surgery last year and clearly wasn’t himself for much of the season. Watch him in the postseason, and he was as productive as ever. He played like a guy you want to keep, not let walk away.
And you also have to remember just how hard it is to find productive, consistent defensive ends.
This is a team that drafted Jon Harris and Jerome McDougle in the first round and got a total of five sacks out of them. That drafted Vinny Curry in the second round and got one decent year out of him. That drafted Victor Abiamiri in the second round and got four sacks out of him. A team that drafted Daniel Te’o-Nesheim in the third round and got one sack out of him.
Now, Howie Roseman’s recent track record has been very good — and of those guys, only Te’o-Nesheim was his pick — but the fact remains you’d always rather have a known quantity than an unknown.
With Chris Long turning 34 later this month and possibly retiring, Michael Bennett turning 34 in the fall and Derek Barnett still finding his way, the Eagles faced some real question marks about pass rusher, even if they did draft one in the first couple rounds.
But it goes deeper even than that.
Simply, Brandon Graham is an Eagle, he’s always been an Eagle and as long as he’s productive he should remain an Eagle, and the organization that let two Hall of Fame defensive players leave in their prime gets that.
I’m guessing Jeff Lurie has never forgiven himself for the way the franchise handled Dawk after the 2008 season, and while B.G. isn’t in the same class as Dawk, he’s a Super Bowl hero, he’s beloved in this city, he loves playing here, his contract demands weren't outlandish, and there’s tremendous value in bringing back a guy who wants to spend his career here.
Especially one who is such an inspiration to his teammates and such a true leader in the locker room.
Here’s Howie Roseman earlier this week:
We’re an organization led by our owner and led by our head coach that emotion plays a part in some of the decisions we make. We get attached to our players because they do so much for us. I don’t know that that ever is going to go away as long as this leadership is in place. We try to balance those things, but it’s hard.
Graham’s contract is worth just over $13 million per year, which is a lot for a guy his age. It makes him one of the 10-highest-paid defensive ends in the league.
It’s a risk to bring back a guy who’s approaching his 31st birthday on a three-year deal.
It’s a bigger risk trying to replace him.
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