What Eagles Should do with Nigel Bradham and Derek Barnett

Ed Kracz

Add this to the list of decisions the Eagles have careening their way: linebacker Nigel Bradham and defensive end Derek Barnett.

The Eagles have until March 17 to exercise the team option on Bradham’s contract for the 2020 season.

Barnett is signed through 2020, but the Eagles have until early May to decide on whether they want to pick up 2021, the final year of his rookie deal.

Here is more on each player:

BRADHAM

Pros

He has been integral piece to coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense since arriving in 2016 as a free agent. He has been relatively healthy, missing six games the pasts four seasons, and has played through various injuries.

Many may not realize it, but Bradham is as tough as they come at his position, and he’s a sure tackler.

Everyone knows about safety Malcolm Jenkins and how he has played virtually every snap since coming to Philly, but Bradham can make a similar claim.

After missing four games with ankle injury last year, from Oct. 20 though Nov. 17, a span in which the Eagles went 1-3, Bradham played every snap over the final six games, with the exception of two, and in those games he played 96 percent and 98 percent of the snaps. Against the Seahawks in the wild-card round of the playoffs, he played all but one snap.

His snap count has consistently hovered around 90 percent the past four years with last year the exception when he played 71 percent. Had he not missed four games, that number would have been around what it has been.

He had 63 tackles this season, but, again, had he played those four games, he would have likely been where he usually is, and that is around 90 tackles for the year.

Cons

He will turn 30 a week before the regular season begins and, on a team that wants to get younger, that may prove to be too old.

Then there’s the off the field stuff.

Bradham missed the team bus to New York for the final preseason game against the New York Jets last summer, in a matter the team called a miscommunication. Bradham said he was sick and knew he wouldn’t be playing, so he stayed home.

Then there was a pair of off the field incidents, one in 2016 when he allegedly punched a hotel employee and another in 2017 when he tried to bring a loaded gun onto an airplane.

Bradham escaped every one of those incidents relatively unscathed.

Who takes his place if he does not return?

Nate Gerry slid into Bradham’s middle linebacker spot when Bradham was out last year. Gerry was somewhat inconsistent, and it would be up to the team to decide if they are comfortable with him taking over for Bradham.

T.J. Edwards played sparingly but when he did, seemed to hold up well, so he could be in line for a snap increase if Bradham does not return.

Verdict

Bradham’s has a base salary of $8 million and a salary cap hit of $9.7 million, up from $4.6 in 2019. It is extremely unlikely the Eagles will want to absorb either of those figures.

Unless a Bradham agrees to a salary restructure, he’s gone.

BARNETT

Pros

Barnett plays hard on every single down, putting himself in position to make a big play, which is exactly what he did in Super Bowl LII when he was around the ball to recover it when Brandon Graham stripped it away from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the final two minutes.

He also made a huge strip sack in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings when Minnesota, down 14-7, were threatening to score after making it inside the Eagles’ 25-yard line. That is when Barnett ripped the ball away from Case Keenum.

Barnett’s next birthday, on June 25, will make him just 24, still a baby by NFL standards.

Despite missing two games last season, he ended with a career-high in sacks with 6.5, which was second highest on the team behind Brandon Graham’s 8.5.

He has 14 career sacks in three seasons.

Cons

Barnett has been unable to stay fully healthy for all 16 games. He missed two with an ankle injury in 2019 and made it into just six games in 2018 after a shoulder injury landed him on IR.

Barnett has played just 35 of a possible 48 games, and even in the games he has played he has had to battle through a litany of nagging bumps and bruises in many of them.

Who takes his place if he does not return?

The Eagles would need a replacement, either through free agency or the draft, since they are also likely not to re-sign Vinny Curry.

Verdict

Last year, the Eagles picked up the fifth-year option on receiver Nelson Agholor’s contract and paid him $9.3 million. Barnett’s option year will likely be a bit higher, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million.

It is way too early to give up on a young player like Barnett.

How high is ceiling still is at this point is a question mark since his consistent lack of good health has sidetracked him. Maybe, though, the Eagles think he still has plenty of room to grow and opt to give him a contract extension beyond 2021. That would certainly be a surprise.

As it stands now, yes, they will pick up the team option.

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