Defensive end Brandon Graham has stopped attending Eagles workouts and is expected to skip organized team activities later this month – and also possibly mandatory minicamp in June – until the Eagles renegotiate his contract, two NFL sources said.
Graham signed a four-year, $26 million contract in 2015 and is slated to earn $6.5 million in each of the last two years of the deal. He was the Eagles’ most productive defensive end last season, and his base salary for 2016 is $500,000 less than defensive end Vinny Curry, who inked a five-year, $46.25 million contract last offseason.
Graham, 29, is the 28th-highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL, on a per-year scale. Curry, who didn’t start last season despite his blockbuster deal, is 13th highest.
Graham, reached via text message Wednesday, declined to address his potential holdout.
“Can’t talk about contract stuff right now,” Graham said.
The Eagles had no comment. Graham would be fined each day he missed minicamp, which is scheduled for June 13-15. OTAs will begin on May 23 and run for three weeks.
Graham was present for the first stage of voluntary workouts. He met with reporters on the first day, but the subject of his contract wasn’t broached. He was asked after the season, though, if he wanted to be paid like a No. 1 edge rusher.
“We’ll worry about that when it comes, I guess,” Graham said on Jan 2. “But I’m just going to try and make sure I’m working hard and hopefully things happen.”
Graham’s sack numbers weren’t spellbinding last season. He finished with only 5 1/2 sacks – one fewer than his career high set a year prior. He finished tied for 10th in the NFL in tackles for loss (12) and tied for 14th in quarterback hurries (22).
“My next step is that I get the quarterback down,” Graham said on April 17. “I think I missed a lot of sacks last year.”
He wasn’t the only one on the Eagles. The team, overall, finished with 33 sacks – its lowest total since 2012. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox paced the squad with 6 1/2, followed by Graham and defensive end Connor Barwin, who had five. Curry finished with 2 1/2.
The Eagles released Barwin, who rushed mostly from the right vs. left tackles, in March. Curry backed up Barwin last season, but Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz might opt to move Graham to the other side, where most No. 1 edge rushers line up.
“I’ve been practicing for the right side, too, because I’ve noticed that,” Graham said last month. “It’s whatever Vinny wants, or Chris [Long] wants, whoever wants to switch sides. It doesn’t matter. I feel like I can play both.”
The Eagles signed Long, 31, to a two-year deal in April. They also selected Derek Barnett in the first round of last month’s draft. The team has made its defensive front a priority for years, but has invested deeply in the unit since Schwartz was hired in January 2016.
The Eagles also have defensive ends Marcus Smith, Steven Means and Alex McCalister on the roster.
Players who have attempted to hold out for new contracts haven’t had much success with the Eagles over the last two decades. Evan Mathis missed all of voluntary workouts two years ago and was released just before minicamp. Chip Kelly, and not Howie Roseman, was in charge of personnel in 2015, however.
DeSean Jackson was the last veteran to skip part of training camp. The former Eagles wide receiver sat out the first week of 2011, but eventually returned without a new deal. He did score an extension the following offseason.
Graham has some leverage in that he’s coming off a career-best season and he’s probably the Eagles’ best defensive end. It doesn’t hurt his cause that Curry, who was a major disappointment in 2016, is making more.