To win the Super Bowl, you’ve gotta play a few extra games—and the last ones are typically at an unmatched intensity. That war on attrition can lead to lingering injuries, and the Eagles are feeling the Lombardi hangover on the medical chart.
After the big bomb of Timmy Jernigan’s restructured contract and offseason herniated disc came the report on Derek Barnett’s sports hernia. And today, Tim McManus of ESPN reports that Brandon Graham could also miss time in the summer due to a lingering 2017 injury:
Early in the fourth quarter of an unnecessarily close game against the Oakland Raiders (but with 1st seed in the NFC on the line), Graham seemed to hurt his ankle on this tackle against Marshawn Lynch. He doesn’t seem to get rolled up on, as is typically the agent of high ankle sprains among linemen, but Jalen Mills’ diving tackle attempt may have twisted his foot at a bad angle.
Graham would not return to the game, nor would he see any reps in the Week 17 meaningless game against the Dallas Cowboys (most starters did see a series or two).
Arguably the Eagles’ most influential defender on a snap-by-snap basis, losing Graham for any regular-season games could prove a blow. BGN Radio’s John Barchard reports that he’s heard Graham’s recovery period could indeed extend into Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons:
A bit of good news: the Eagles have a predictably tough schedule for an NFC team and Super Bowl winner—but as the schedule fell chronologically, they have the seventh-easiest schedule in the month of September, which will help if they’re still returning star players from the medical tent.
Regular-season games without Graham could also prove enlightening for the future. Due to hit free agency after this season, Graham has been very vocal about his desire for a heavy contract, which on the EDGE market, could run somewhere around $15M/year. In Philadelphia’s current cap situation, they would likely be outbid by far less talented teams—if Graham does indeed hit free agency, he may elect to take a big payday now that he has his ring.
As such, an unavailable Graham early in the season spells more pass-rushing attempts for second-year pro Derek Barnett and rookie 4th-rounder Josh Sweat. It also opens training camp reps for bubble players like Steven Means (free agent after 2018) and UDFA Joe Ostman (from Central Michigan). The Eagles undoubtedly have the short-term DE depth to bear the lost Graham snaps for 2018, and could get a glimpse at the long-term depth to potentially fill his shoes beyond next season.