Brandon Graham, 32, was named to his first Pro Bowl earlier this week in his 11th season in the NFL.
He has no plans of walking away from the game anytime soon.
“My goal has always been 15 years. I love just having that 15,” Graham said this week. “I always said that as a younger guy, you always see the older vets. I was a big Ray Lewis fan, of course seeing him being there, what, 17 years at one place?
“I didn’t know it would turn out like this the way I’m doing it but now that I can kind of see some things, I’m like ‘Man, just gotta continue to keep on keeping your body right. If you don’t get there, that’s cool,’ but as long as you set a good goal out, 15 was always my goal.”
So can he last 15 years in the NFL? And if he does, is there any chance he plays all 15 of those seasons with the Eagles?
Based on history, both seem unlikely. But as we’ve learned with Graham before, it’s best not to count him out.
Fifteen years in the NFL is an extremely long career, especially for a defensive lineman. Graham turns 33 in April.
So if Graham makes it to Year 15, he’ll be 36 years old for the 2024 season.
In the NFL this season there are just 24 total players who are in Year 15+ and just one of them is a defensive lineman, according to StatHead. Domata Peko is the only defensive lineman in his 15th+ season and he has played in just four games for the Cardinals this year.
In the last 20 years, there have been just nine defensive linemen to play into their 15th NFL seasons: Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Trace Armstrong, Ted Washington, Keith Traylor, Michael Strahan, Jeff Zgonina, Julius Peppers and Peko.
The good news for Graham is that he has proven to be pretty durable in his career and he didn’t even become a starter until Year 6, so he has less wear on his tires.
While it has been rare for a defensive lineman to play 15 seasons in the NFL, it’s beyond rare for any player to play 15 seasons for the Eagles. It has never happened. Not once.
Chuck Bednarik played 14 seasons for the Birds and Brian Dawkins, Harold Carmichael, Bucko Kilroy and Vic Sears all played 13.
Graham said something interesting this week as he talked about getting named to his first Pro Bowl. He started talking about his future in the NFL. He said didn’t know how long he had left in Philly.
“So I gotta put one down before I get out of here, man,” Graham said. “This one is very special to me man because I really wanted to get on that wall.”
It’s hard to imagine Graham ever playing in another NFL uniform but he wouldn’t be the first great player to move on and finish his career elsewhere. There’s a long list of guys who have done that.
Heck, the Eagles will have a decision to make on Graham for the 2021 season. In the third and final year of his most recent contract, Graham is slated to have a $13 million base salary with a cap hit of nearly $18 million. The Eagles could cut him with a post-June 1 designation to save $13 million in much-needed cap space. Or they could find a way to restructure and possibly even extend his contract.
Based on the way he’s played this season, the latter might make sense.
But Graham will be 33 entering next season and the Eagles are a team that will be in some sort of rebuilding phase with a need to get younger at his position. For now, though, it’s hard to imagine Graham not being an Eagle.
And his teammates have no doubt he’ll be able to reach his goal of 15 years in the NFL.
“Oh yeah, of course. BG playing at a high level,” Javon Hargrave said. “He’s a guy who takes care of his body like no other. So, I mean, yeah, I think it’s real possible for him to play at a high level that long.”
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