The most significant Eagles free agency decision to be made for 2019 may well involve defensive end Brandon Graham. According to Tim McManus of ESPN, “if the Eagles can get him at a discount, a deal could get done. But his best chance at a bigger payday will be elsewhere.”
The defensive hero of Super Bowl LII, Graham played through a high ankle sprain last postseason and wasn’t fully healthy for much of the 2018 campaign. He ended up with four sacks — his lowest total since 2013 — but the 30-year-old picked up steam as the season went on. He can be a force both against the run and as a pass-rusher, and he has been a key figure in the locker room over the past several seasons. Graham loves it in Philadelphia (per multiple sources).
EYE loves Graham, too. But to love him with guaranteed $$$ enough to keep him around into his mid-30’s is another question. My uneducated guess is Graham and his agent are looking for three years at $50 million with $30 million guaranteed as their baseline requirement. The franchise tag value for defensive end this year is about $18 million, by the way.
That’s a lot of dough which could be allocated elsewhere. When you look around the league, you might be tempted to spend that cash to get one or more of these guys on the free agent market:
Offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James —-Miami Dolphins. If there’s even a thought of moving Lane Johnson to left tackle, you could plug James in at RT and not miss a beat.
Defensive end Henry Anderson —-New York Jets. He recorded a career-high seven sacks in his first season with the Jets, showing the ability to play inside and outside. Anderson is only 27, just entering his prime.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley —-Baltimore Ravens. Joe Douglas knows all about this guy. If you can’t re-sign Jordan Hicks, then Mosley is probably the next best thing on the inside. He’s not outstanding in pass coverage, but he is an excellent defender from sideline to sideline.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu —-Houston Texans. “Honey Badger” would be the extra “shape-shifter” needed by the Eagles’ secondary. The ability to move Mathieu around enhances the defense against both the run and the pass.
Safety Adrian Amos —-Chicago Bears. A former fifth-round draft pick, Amos has carved out a nice career, starting 56 regular-season games since 2015. Amos had 71 tackles and a career-best two interceptions for the Bears’ top-ranked defense in 2018. The Bears would love to keep Amos, but don’t want to pay him.
Linebacker Anthony Barr —-Minnesota Vikings. Could this guy be the piece we’re missing at weak-side linebacker? Barr’s fifth season was up and down, but he shined brightest when used to rush the passer (three sacks, four QB hits, eight tackles for loss). He probably would prefer to go to a team which uses a 3-4 base, but a fella can dream, can’t he?
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh —- L.A. Rams. Guess what? He will be affordable and available. The Rams signed Suh to a one-year, $14 million contract last year as he was considered a one-year rental. His numbers didn’t jump off the stat sheet, with 4.5 sacks in a run defense that ranked last in the NFL, allowing an average of 5.1 yards per carry. I believe the Eagles could get him at a discount. Plus he’s been on his best behavior, and I would never bet against a guy with an architectural engineering degree.
Defensive end Frank Clark —-Seattle Seahawks. Would Pete Carroll let a 25-year-old pass-rusher with 33 sacks over the past three seasons leave in free agency? Probably not— they’d put the franchise tag on him just to keep him around for 2019. But something for the Eagles and Howie to keep an EYE on….use the money saved by not signing Graham this year to put together a multi-year offer for Clark in 2020.
Those are the guys I wouldn’t mind “sacrificing” Graham for. I won’t even entertain thoughts of greed for fellows like Le’Veon Bell, some things are just too expensive and/or not worth the headache.