Brandon Graham knew there were trade rumors throughout the offseason about his future in Philadelphia, which appeared even more in doubt after the Eagles used a first-round pick on linebacker Marcus Smith. Graham, a former first-round pick who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, took solace in the fact that he’s still with the Eagles.
"They want me here, I’m still here, all the rumors and whatever it is, it’s just rumors,” Graham said. “I feel like if it was something they wanted to do, I’d be gone.”
The Eagles might not have been able to find a taker for Graham, who has dealt with injuries, scheme changes, and position changes. He said he had weight issues last season while transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, but Graham is now at 265 pounds and said he is at the ideal weight for the spot.
"I’m able to move around a lot better,” Graham said. “I know the defense, I know what [the coaches are] looking for now in practice.”
Graham said at the end of last season that he wanted the opportunity to start. He said Thursday that he still has that opportunity in Philadelphia, but he simply wants to be on the field to contribute. He played only 27 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Coach Chip Kelly said he sees Graham fitting into the defense.
"I think he obviously has the skill set to rush the passer and set the edge, and when he’s been in there, he’s been productive,” Kelly said. “The issue is the other guy has been productive, too.”
The Eagles stated the desire to upgrade their pass rush during the offseason. The biggest move they made was selecting Smith, who is practicing behind Connor Barwin in the team’s 3-4 defense. Graham is on the other side, behind Trent Cole.
“You can bring in all the competition you want, we’re going to make each other better,” Graham said. “I definitely know everybody at the end of the day won’t be here, but I feel like we’re all competing for a job, and if it’s here or elsewhere, I’m not shying away from competition.”
Graham has 11.5 sacks in four seasons. He emphasized that he knows he has the skillset to thrive in the NFL, although he's not playing for the same coaching staff that selected him – and not in the same scheme that he was drafted to play in.
“I know it’s not the same staff that drafted me, but I felt like last year was more the weight,” Graham said. “I want to give them everything I can so they can know I should be safe on this team. But if not, somebody’s going to get somebody good. But I know I really want to be here.”