One by one, players from the Eagles 2017 championship roster continue to move on, either by their own choice or the Eagles.
The departed include LeGarrette Blount, Torrey Smith, Brent Celek, Stefen Wisniewski, Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Mychal Kendricks, Patrick Robinson, Donnie Jones, Kenjon Barner, Trey Burton, Ronald Darby, Najee Goode, Jordan Hicks, Steven Means, Caleb Sturis and Chance Warmack..and that is not all the names.
It seemed certain that one name was about to be added to the list – linebacker Brandon Graham. His fourth- quarter strip sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII will live forever in Eagles folklore.
The love affair Graham has had with Eagles fans and the City of Philadelphia since he was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft tugged on his heart strings to the point where he just couldn't leave.
His production in 2018 was solid, but not special. He played in the Super Bowl with a mangled foot that certainly held him back last year.
Graham appears to be back to full strength. Most observers believe he still has some gas left in the tank. So the Eagles, who genuinely wanted him to stay, and Graham came together to agree to a three-year $40 million contract extension with the Eagles through the 2021 season.
At the time of his signing, there were two weeks to go before the free agent signing period opened. Graham could have waited and tried the open market. The 30-year-old (for a few more weeks) talked about why he decided to stay home.
“Honestly, me and my family, we just love our situation here in Philly,” Graham said during a noisy conference call shorty after the deal was done. “For me, I've already done well with what I've been given, saved my money. I wasn't that far off with where I wanted to be with the Eagles. We ended up making it work. I know that for me, I feel like we've built something here and I wanted to finish it out. It made sense.”
Graham's workouts showed the Eagles – and himself-- that he was back to at least near 100 percent.
Graham was asked if his diligence, training intensity and faith in himself was something young people could emulate.
“I like to let my work ethic speak for itself,” Graham said. “I like to show the young guys how I come in and approach a day every day. And on top of that, if I see they notice, I'll give them some advice like 'Hey man, it ain't always been peaches and cream since I've been here but I know what works, and that's working hard one day at a time.':
Graham said he thinks new players should always listen to the veterans on how this NFL thing works.
“You should be grabbing on to one of these vets and learning from them,” he said. “You have to have your own regime, all the great ones do it. I got to see Kiko (LB Alonso, Miami Dolphins) and all those guys and how they did every day.
“I try to take different things that will help me in my preparation,” Graham continued. “And I try to pass it down to young guys like DB (Derek Barnett) . I want make sure I pass [information] forward so the Eagles can continue to be great.”
The Jim Schwartz defensive scheme and his relationship with owner Jeffrey Lurie and the rest of the Eagles brass also played a big role in his desire to stay an Eagle, the only team he will likely ever play for.
“It makes a big difference,” Graham said. “I know the scheme, It's a great scheme for me and how I play. That's usually the one you want to stay with. Philly checked off all the boxes. I love the City and I love the upstairs.
I want to thank Howie (Roseman), coach (Doug Pederson) and Mr. Lurie for believing in m one more time. For me it was a no-brainer.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii