"Discussions on an extension started several weeks ago, according to sources, when the Eagles came to Graham with a four-year offer, but sides still remain far apart. Complicating talks are the contract structure and Graham’s potential to score more money and long-term security on the open market."
Given the way Graham has performed in limited playing time this season, it's no surprise the Eagles have interest in trying to retain him. In 423 snaps played, Graham has recorded 5.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, 33 quarterback hurries, 29 tackles, and four forced fumbles.
The Eagles originally acquired Graham with the No. 13 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft after trading up from No. 24. Graham is playing on the final year of his rookie deal. He is only scheduled to make $3,378,000 in 2014.
A contract extension would not come cheap. Pass rushers earn big pay days. Look no further than Minnesota Vikings' defensive end Everson Griffen, who scored a five-year contract worth $42.5 million last offseason, including $20 million guaranteed.
Philadelphia is likely hoping to get a deal done before Graham hits free agency, but there's really no reason for the linebacker to rush into a new contract. Graham could simply wait until free agency starts in March and take the best deal he's offered.
Graham's had a strange career. He dealt with injuries early on in his career which led to many people labeling him as a draft bust. Then people were quick to say he couldn't convert to a 3-4 outside linebacker after being a 4-3 defensive end. Many thought that the Eagles were going to end up trading Graham at some point due to all the trade rumors he had been mentioned in. Philadelphia reportedly tried to trade Graham for Miami's Dion Jordan last offseason.
The timing of this report is interesting given the injury situation of Trent Cole. The team's 10-year veteran suffered a broken hand in Week 15 and might not play against Washington, though he will try to suit up. With Cole potentially out, Graham will make his first start since 2012. It will be interesting to see how he performs in extended playing time.
It will also be interesting to see how the Eagles handle Cole's contract in the offseason. Cole, who will turn 33 next October, has a cap figure of $11,625,000 in 2015. He can be released to save $8,425,000. The Eagles can use some of those savings to held go towards a new contract for Graham. The Eagles would also free up playing time for Graham by parting ways with Cole. Perhaps Cole would be willing to re-structure his contract and play in a limited role, but that remains to be seen. Philadelphia's other starting outside linebacker, Connor Barwin, is still under contract until 2018, so he won't be going anywhere.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. In the past, Graham has stated he wants to stay in Philadelphia. Now, the Eagles will be to give him a big contract in order to make that happen. There's no guarantee he will want to stay.