Putting Brandon Graham’s contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in perspective
Defensive end Brandon Graham was the only Philadelphia Eagles player to earn an Associated Press all-pro nod last season, but five of his teammates are slated to make more money in 2017.
The optics grow more troubling when we look beyond one season — Graham’s annual average value on his four-year deal is $6.5 million, which ranks 12th on the team. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive end Vinny Curry own more lucrative deals than Graham but combined to play fewer defensive snaps last season (709) than the second-team all-pro pass rusher did on his own (764).
Graham, 29, released a statement Tuesday to say he was never holding out for a new contract, despite a Philadelphia Inquirer report to the contrary. He said he was spending time with his family in Detroit last week, but he returned to the NovaCare Complex to rejoin the Eagles’ offseason workout program Tuesday.
In any case, the Inquirer’s report — accurate or not — thrust Graham’s contract situation in the spotlight and put stress on a franchise that’s already spent time this offseason coping with strict salary cap restraints.
And it begs the question: Would Graham, if he asked for it, deserve a reworked contract? That’s up for debate, but it seems clear Graham outperformed the value of his deal in 2016.
For reference, here’s a look at the 10 biggest salary cap numbers on the Eagles entering the 2017 season, courtesy over OverTheCap.com:
- OT Jason Peter: $11.7 million
- OT Lane Johnson: $9.8 million
- WR Alshon Jeffery: $9.5 million
- DT Fletcher Cox: $9.4 million
- DE Vinny Curry: $9 million
- S Malcolm Jenkins: $7.5 million
- DE Brandon Graham: $7.5 million
- OG Brandon Brooks: $7.2 million
- LB Mychal Kendricks: $6.6 million
- C Jason Kelce: $6.2 million
And here is the average annual value of the Eagles’ 15 most lucrative contracts:
- DT Fletcher Cox: $17.1 million (6 years, $102.6 million)
- OT Lane Johnson: $11.3 million (5 years, $56.3 million)
- OT Jason Peters: $9.6 millon (4 years, $38.3 million)
- WR Alshon Jeffery: $9.5 million (1 year, $9.5 million)
- DE Vinny Curry: $9.3 million (5 years, $46.25 million)
- S Malcolm Jenkins: $8.8 million (4 years, $35 million)
- TE Zach Ertz: $8.5 million (5 years, $42.5 million)
- G Brandon Brooks: $8 million (5 years, $40 million)
- LB Mychal Kendricks: $7.3 million (4 years, $29 million)
- S Rodney McLeod: $7 million (5 years, $35 million)
- QB Carson Wentz: $6.7 million (4 years, $26.7 million)
- DE Brandon Graham: $6.5 million (4 years, $26 million)
- C Jason Kelce: $6.3 million (6 years, $37.7 million)
- QB Nick Foles: $5.5 million (2 years, $11 million)
- WR Torrey Smith: $5 million (3 years, $5 million)
Graham’s position on these lists doesn’t make him seem like one of the Eagles’ most valuable defensive linemen, let alone one of the better defenders on the team as a whole. His contract doesn’t look any better when compared to similar players across the legaue — 28 edge rushers have contracts with a greater annual value than Graham’s, according to OverTheCap.com.
Considering the former Michigan star is coming off his best season as a professional, it’s easy to see why he might have wanted to test his luck with a contract renegotiation.
At the same time, though, there’s reason for the Eagles to be hesitant to invest in Graham beyond his current contract. While some pundits raved about Graham’s ability to pressure quarterbacks last season, the veteran only racked up a middling total of 5.5 sacks.
And of the 10 highest-paid edge rushers in the league, only one — 31-year-old Clay Matthews — is older than Graham.
If the Eagles, who already have hefty funds invested in Curry and Cox along the defensive line, wanted to award a contract to a player nearing 30, they’d want to be sure they were getting a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Graham’s never made a Pro Bowl or piled up more than seven sacks in a season.
All of this is moot, for now. Graham returned to the Eagles’ facility Tuesday and has denied any notion of a contract dispute, so his agent and de facto general manager Howie Roseman have no pressing need to hash out a new deal.
But as the offseason inches along, the numbers bear out a meaningful conclusion: While Graham’s play in 2016 might warrant a pay bump, the Eagles lack obvious incentive to offer him a more lucrative deal.
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