The Eagles have whiffed on a few free agents this off-season, but they finally found someone to take some of their massive amount of cap space, re-signing Brandon Graham. It’s a good move. Graham is seen as not being able to play in a 3-4, but, while he’s probably better in a 4-3, he’s shown over the past 2 seasons that he can play in both schemes. After struggling with injuries in the first two seasons of his career, Graham, a 2010 1st round pick, had somewhat of a breakout year in 2012. He didn’t get a ton of playing time (435 snaps), which is why it’s hard to call it a true breakout year, but he still graded out 2nd among 4-3 defensive ends that season, despite the limited playing time.
Moving to a 3-4 in 2013, he only saw 331 snaps, but he still graded out 15th at his position, making it two straight years where no one played fewer snaps than him and graded out better at his position. In 2014, he was still the 3rd outside linebacker, but he played ahead of 1st round pick Marcus Smith all year, set a career high in snaps played with 524 snaps and graded out 3rd among 3-4 outside linebackers. For the third straight year, no one graded out better at his position on fewer snaps.
It was widely assumed that Graham would sign elsewhere this off-season, in hopes of getting more playing time and playing in a 4-3, but, as I mentioned, he fits a 3-4 scheme fine and he should still get a lot of playing time in Philadelphia next season with Trent Cole gone. 2014 1st round pick Marcus Smith should see more snaps in 2015, but Graham should still work ahead of him as a starter opposite Connor Barwin and set a new career in snaps played. As a 600-700 snap guy, Graham has the potential to break out as one of the best edge rushers in the game. It’s somewhat risky considering he’s never played a significant amount of snaps, but he’s handled everything he’s been given in his career very well and the Eagles aren’t risking a ton of money here, giving him 26 million over 4 years with 14 million guaranteed. I liked the Pernell McPhee deal. This is less money for arguably a better player.