Phillip Daniels wasted little time calling Brandon Graham to congratulate him after Graham and the Eagles agreed to a three-year, $40 million contract prior to the free agency period opening in mid-March.
“Me and BG have a great relationship,” said Daniels, who was promoted from assistant defensive line coach to head DL coach this season. “I talked to him after he signed back and I said I bet you’re not happier than I am to have you back here. He said, ‘Man, I’m ready.’
“Brandon is a big part of what we do. He’s a physical dude who can get on the edge and make some things happen. We needed to get him back and we got him back.”
Graham’s value to the team can be measured in more than just on-the-field numbers.
Front office types such as Howie Roseman talk about his infectious personality, a much underrated component to a winning locker room.
Head coach Doug Pederson called him “the heart and soul of this football team.”
Pederson added: “With his energy every single day and what he brings to the defense, what he brings from a leadership standpoint to our team, it's pretty impressive that he's played this long. Really, to me, he can go several more years. I really do believe that.”
On the field, though, Graham still has not reached that double-digit sack season, and he is entering his 10th season. He came close in 2017 when he posted 9.5, but a roughing the quarterback penalty against the 49ers in week eight negated one sack.
“It’s been right there,” said Graham of the elusive double-digit sack number. “That year, I remember against the 49ers where they said I had grabbed him from the face mask and it was a personal foul. If they give me that one its 10.5, so it’s there.
"I feel like I have to have something going, I have a chip on my shoulder and I feel like that’s another chip. People don’t think I can get it. I just love proving people wrong.”
Instead, Graham settled for making the biggest play in Eagles history in 2017 with a late-game sack in Super Bowl LII. That sack technically gave him double digits, but postseason stats are a separate entity from regular season numbers.
“Tenth year, and I’m trying to crack the double digits on the sack; that’s always been a goal, but I feel really good about achieving that with the culture we have with coach Daniels,” said Graham. “We have Malik (Jackson) in the middle, Fletch (Cox) in the middle. It’s going to be a problem (for opposing teams).”
Graham is healthy heading into training camp, with players reporting on July 24.
Last year, he missed all of the spring practices and some of training camp after undergoing right ankle surgery.
Perhaps the delayed start led to bit of a down season for Graham, who had just four sacks in 2018, a big dip from the previous year.
“It’s always important to come into a year healthy,” said Daniels. “That’s what Brandon is about, helping us win and trying to get us back to the Super Bowl. That’s all he talks about is winning and having that opportunity to play in the Super Bowl again. It (the injury) slowed him down a little bit last year, but he got through it and helped us.”
Graham expects to help more this year.
“I know last year I wasn’t as healthy as I would like and didn’t get the offseason that I wanted,” he said. “But no excuses. I worked myself back and now I want to bring people to my party because we’re going to have a party this year out there on the field. We’re going to have fun.”