One of the more underrated members of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 championship roster is hitting free agency. Defensive end Brandon Graham enters the open market on the heels of another quietly productive season. While he won’t light the world on fire, Graham should find a home and while making a decent salary in the 2019 season.
2019 NFL Free Agent Profile: Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham wasn’t a superstar, but the longtime Eagle had another strong year in his age-30 season. Playing 16 games, Graham finished the year with four sacks, 39 tackles, and 11 quarterback hits. However, a stat sheet cannot effectively break down Graham’s impact on the game.
Graham was one of the best in the league at setting the edge. While he wasn’t the one recording the tackles, Graham won his individual matchups on a regular basis, freeing up other players to make tackles. Pro Football Focus recognized Graham’s dependable play, as the advanced analytics website ranked him as the eighth-best edge defender in the league.
This wasn’t a one-year success, either. Graham has always been a good player but turned his game up to another level since 2016. Over the past three seasons, Graham has recorded 19 sacks, 105 tackles, and 47 quarterback hits while playing in 47 of a possible 48 games. He’s on the older side at age 31, but the former first-round pick should have a few good years left in him.
The Philadelphia Eagles would love to bring back Graham, but they may not have the cap space to do so. As of this posting, the Eagles are currently $1.7 million above the 2019 salary cap. Even before re-signing their own players, Philadelphia will need to make a few moves to get below the cap line. It’s hard to imagine Graham returning with Philadelphia in such an undesirable position.
Graham’s market will be primarily determined by what happens to the other defensive tackles on the market. Graham is hitting the market at the wrong time, as younger edge rushers like Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, and Trey Flowers are also unrestricted free agents. All of the aforementioned players are probably better than Graham, and each one is younger. Depending on how many of these young players actually hit the market will directly affect how big a paycheck Graham earns in 2019.
Of the three aforementioned players, Trey Flowers is the most likely to reach the open market. New England only has $14.66 million in cap space, and Flowers will likely require a contract exceeding $16 million a year. The Patriots could make a contract work if they wanted to, but New England doesn’t have the best history of paying their young pass rushers. Graham is a very similar player to Flowers, and New England could easily sign him as a cost-effective replacement.
Last Word on Brandon Graham in Free Agency
Brandon Graham had another quietly effective season in a career full of them. While his sack numbers don’t jump off the page, Graham is great at setting the edge and winning his one-on-one matchups. Graham finished the season as the eighth-ranked edge defender in the league and should earn a decent contract entering his age-31 season.
The Philadelphia Eagles would love to have him back but probably can’t afford to do so. As it is now, the Eagles are already over the 2019 salary cap. They’ll need to shed some contracts just to get them under the cap line.
The market is stacked with young, talented pass rushers, and Graham’s future will be highly dependent upon what happens to those younger players. Given minimal salary room, the New England Patriots could choose to move on from defensive end Trey Flowers and sign Graham as a cost-effective replacement.
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