Is Brandon Graham One of Howie Roseman’s ‘Tough Choices?’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Howie Roseman is riding high today as the reigning NFL Executive of the year who cobbled together a Super Bowl roster and just agreed to a deal that will bring a three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman to what was already the best defensive front in football.
Whether Roseman is still the most popular guy in town next week remains to be seen because right now the Eagles as currently constructed are $16 to $17 million over the 2018 salary cap, meaning the other shoe in the Michael Bennett trade is going to drop.
Philadelphia will pick up minimal cap relief when the retirement of veteran punter Donnie Jones kicks in and if the space to wrangle comes from refusing Torrey Smith's option and either trading or releasing Vinny Curry, along with taking a little bit of medicine by either restructuring or releasing Brent Celek and allowing players like Trey Burton and Beau Allen to leave via free agency, the Philly faithful will be content with the knowledge that the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy is nestled comfortably at One NovaCare Way.
Heck, even if the Eagles lose the productive Nigel Bradham to big money you can chalk it up to Super Bowl attrition.
But, if Philadelphia trades Brandon Graham that's a different story.
Because Bennett and Graham are such similar players -- difference makers on the edge who move into the interior on obvious pass-rushing situations -- there are at least some speculating that the former Seahawks Super Bowl winner is here to replace the popular B.G. rather than the overpriced Curry.
There is at least some smoke to that fire of a thesis. As a late bloomer, Graham is underpaid and wants more money after outperforming his deal over the past three seasons.
As far as the trade market goes, the former second-team All-Pro is a better player than Curry and costs less (at least right now) so in theory, Graham could bring more back to Philadelphia in the form of third-day draft picks.
From a football perspective moving on from Graham would also enable Jim Schwartz to slide Bennett, who arguably is better at what Graham does than 55 himself, into B.G.'s role and still have an expanded piece of the pie for a player the team is very high one, second-year pass rusher Derek Barnett.
Graham is set to enter the final year of a four-year, $26 million contract he agreed to in 2016 and his cap number is a very manageable $8 million, at least when you consider the production he has provided.
Roseman needs space, however, and he would get $7 million of that back by trading or releasing Graham as opposed to $5M by releasing Curry, a difference that doesn't seem huge on paper but every penny counts when you are juggling like the Eagles are.
Conversely, it seems silly to move on from a guy who exemplifies what you want from a player both on and off the field and is coming off the Super Bowl strip sack of Tom Brady that secured that Lombardi Trophy for the Eagles.
Graham's non-stop motor sets the tone for the entire defense and his infectious personality contributes to the oft-talked about practice environment that Doug Pederson believes is the foundation of the Eagles' success.
Roseman, however, has already admitted that he needs to avoid sentimentality when doing his job this offseason.
“It’s hard to avoid looking at those guys, guys who did unbelievable things for your football team and have unbelievable character, and separate it from what we need to do going forward,” Roseman explained. “By the same token, this is a unique position for us, and certainly for me personally, in the fact that we need to make these decisions coming off a championship year. But we want to get better. We want to continue to be in a position to get better, and we’re going to have to make tough choices."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen