January 30, 2018
Last week, we noted that the Philadelphia Eagles have 21 of 22 starters signed through the 2018 season, and thus are in a great position to be Super Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future.
The lone starter who is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason is linebacker Nigel Bradham, who has led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons. A quick look at Bradham's numbers during his time in Philly:
When Jordan Hicks was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles, Bradham instantaneously became the most solid and trustworthy linebacker on the roster. He took over Hicks' role of relaying the play calls from Jim Schwartz to the rest of the defense.
"I think one of the unsung stories of this season has been Nigel picking up that communication," said Jim Schwartz. "Nigel has always been a fiery guy. Sometimes I think he runs about five extra miles trying to get to the pile to make sure he's delivering whatever message he's going to deliver and it brings us a lot of energy, it really does. But that's a tough thing to do when you've got the coach speaking in your ear about, ‘Hey, remind this guy this and we're going to this call, but check it to this if something else is going on’. And he's done a really good job handling all that communication, and it's been fairly seamless."
When asked if he wanted to return, Bradham responded, "Of course. It’s been amazing. From the time I got here, to overcome a lot of stuff, a lot of adversity that I’ve faced, and the team trusting in me, knowing what type of person I am, I feel like that showed a lot to me."
The "adversity" Bradham faced was a pair of arrests in 2016. One arrest was for allegedly punching a "cabana boy" in a dispute over an umbrella, while the other was for putting a loaded gun through the x-ray machine at the airport. Those arrests prompted Schwartz to refer indirectly to Bradham as a "dumbass."
"Having them trust in me that I'll make the right decisions out there after making dumb decisions (off the field) helped me a lot," Bradham said.
At some point the NFL will conclude their investigation into Bradham's arrests, and could impose a suspension, which makes Bradham's contract negotiations – with the Eagles or elsewhere – a little trickier than usual, and something of a guessing game.
"He has incredible passion for the game," said Howie Roseman. "You see it. I think he plays with great energy. He’s always sound. He’s in a great position. For him to move into that signal caller role at middle linebacker just shows how smart he is, and he’s really been a tone setter for our defense, so we’re really happy to have him and the contributions he’s made the last two years."
For a team to return all 22 starters from one year to the next would be incredibly rare in today's NFL, but would certainly be an ideal scenario for a team that went to the Super Bowl.
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