On Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, news broke that provides further clarification on the state of the upcoming free agent market at the edge defender position. Nine-year NFL veteran defensive end Brandon Graham and the Philadelphia Eagles have agreed on a three-year deal.
The #Eagles agreed to terms on a 3-year deal with pass-rusher Brandon Graham worth $40M, source said. The 30-year-old has a real chance to finish his career in Philly while also taking a top pass-rusher off the market.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 1, 2019
This is fantastic news for the Eagles, who retain a key contributor who has been one of the most underrated producers at the defensive end position for the last handful of seasons at a per-year figure far below what he could’ve received on the open market.
Having spent his entire career in Philadelphia after being selected 13th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan, Graham clearly was not interested in seeking out a new landing spot — as evidence by the reported $13.33 million per-year figure.
At 30-years-old, should Graham have decided to test the market, there’s no reason to believe he’d receive a penny less than the $15 million per-year figure secured by Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell and his management team in the 2017 offseason. Campbell was 30 when his deal was signed, and he signed it against a $167 million league salary cap, which is projected to rise between 20-23% to around $190 million in 2019.
By forgoing the free agent process, Graham also misses out on being a top name in a thin edge defender market, as players like Frank Clark, Dee Ford, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Jadeveon Clowney are either rumored to be getting franchised in 2019, or sign long term deals with their current clubs. Graham also misses out on a market that is loaded with a record number of teams possessing a record amount of cap space. According to overthecap.com, 15 teams have over $35 million in available cap space heading into free agency. Nine of those clubs have over $50 million, five of them have over $80 million, and two teams — the Colts and Jets — have over $100 million in cap space with their QB situations completely solidified.
Outside of Philadelphia, perhaps no one is happier to hear about the news of Graham’s deal than Trey Flowers and his agent Neil Cornrich. Assuming that none of the aforementioned top names surprisingly become available, Flowers should now be considered the top player under the age of 30 on the market at the edge defender position — with his closest competition being Preston Smith and Dante Fowler Jr.
I detailed the potential for this outcome back in December, and stated that the expectation for a Flowers deal should be in the $17 million per-year range. With the recent developments in the edge defender market, and an aggressive agent like Cornrich, that figure should now be considered his floor.
It’s hard to imagine the stars aligning any better for Flowers with regard to the landscape of his upcoming free agency. Yet, after three Super Bowl trips, two rings, and four seasons of giving his all to the Patriots organization, it’s also hard to imagine a player more deserving.