The Eagles have looming decisions all over the field, especially on defense. Their entire secondary is in flux and their already weak linebacking unit could get weaker.
According to NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, one likely candidate to be jettisoned this year is starting linebacker Nigel Bradham. The 30-year-old is signed through 2020 but the Eagles have until March 17 to decide whether to exercise the team option on him.
Bradham agreed to a team-friendly deal when they restructured it in 2018 and reduced his salary by $3 million in exchange for $4 million in guarantees, per OverTheCap. The middle linebacker’s original five-year contract was for an estimated $40 million. His salary-cap hit is $9.7 million.
Philadelphia could easily decide to part ways with Bradham this spring and could sell it as a “character issue.” Remember, the Florida State product has had a decent amount of off-the-field issues stemming back to his days in Buffalo when he was given a ticket for unlawful possession of marijuana in 2013.
He has also been arrested for carrying a loaded gun and charged with aggravated battery in two separate incidents in 2016. More recently, Bradham mysteriously missed the team bus before a preseason game last August.
Defensive Coordinator Loves His Starting Middle LB
But Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seems to favor Nigel Bradham anchoring the middle of his defense. He played on 717 defensive snaps (70.29%) last season despite missing the first four games with an ankle injury, including all but one snap in the wild-card loss to Seattle.
Known more as a run-stopper, he was a big reason why the Eagles ranked third in the NFL in run defense, at 90.1 yards per game.
“He’s a real good communicator. He’s good against the run and the pass,” Schwartz said of Bradham in 2019, via The Inquirer. “He’s tough. I think he runs our show really well.”
More importantly, the Eagles have no depth behind Bradham. Nate Gerry would likely slide into his role as the starting middle linebacker. How much does the team trust the converted safety to play the position every week? That is the million-dollar question in Philadelphia.
Eagles Must Decide on Derek Barnett’s Team Option
Defensive end Derek Barnett is another guy to consider. The fourth-year pass-rusher is signed through 2020 but the Eagles have to determine whether they want to use a fifth-year team option on him by early May.
Remember, the former first-round pick (14th overall) will command a salary in the $10 million range. Is he worth it? Short answer, yes.
Barnett has accumulated 14 sacks in three seasons, including securing the football after Brandon Graham’s epic strip-sack in Super Bowl LII. The argument against locking up Barnett would be his sometimes “too aggressive” style of play (late hits, bad penalties) and injury history (missed 13 games in three years).
His production has been off the charts, though. He clearly has the support of the coaching staff.
“I think he’s always been a guy that will lay it all on the line,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, not the fastest guy in the world, but he is one of the toughest guys in the world, and just brings such a presence when he’s on the field.”
Considering the Eagles’ lack of depth at the pass-rushing position, it seems like a no-brainer. The team has to pick up the option and keep Barnett for the long haul.
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