PHILADELPHIA - Josh Sweat cashed in last weekend with a contract extension worth up to $42 million with $26M of that guaranteed, validation for a player who once had to ponder if his football life had been taken away following a devastating injury at Oscar F. Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va.
Once graded by ESPN as the top high-school prospect in the nation, the lengthy edge rusher dislocated his knee and tore his ACL as a high school senior so badly there were concerns that Sweat could lose his leg.
The injuries were ultimately repaired by New York Giants team physician Russell Warren and the slow climb back began.
“At one point, I didn’t know if I was going to play again,” the now 24-year-old Sweat said Saturday after practice at the NovaCare Complex. “Then going through all the rehab, it takes so many years just to get back to feeling 80 percent.
"Now I’m good to go. I have no issues, I haven’t had issues for years now."
The ensuing years were spent rebuilding himself into an NFL prospect again at Florida State, albeit one who had to climb the ladder as a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft rather than No. 4 overall selection which seemed to be Sweat's trajectory prior to the injury.
The new contract had Sweat reminiscing about what he's come through and how far he has come.
"I just think about stuff like that,” he said. "...Sometimes I do let it slip my mind about how far I have come. After signing the [extension], that’s when I really reflected."
That wasn't always the case for Sweat, however.
He was always in the moment trying to better his game, something he tied to former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as well as current teammates Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, and perhaps his biggest champion, former Eagles DE Chris Long, who always believed in Sweat's immense gifts.
"I’m kind of upset I let it take that long for me, to sign the deal and then start reflecting on it, but I can’t take that stuff for granted," Sweat said of his journey. "I’ve come a long way, and I’m still going. I got a lot more I want to do."
The goal moving forward is a simple one, and one Sweat had before his life changed back in Virginia.
"Now I want to be the best,” said Sweat, who is 6-5, 265.
He's slowly increased his role in Philadelphia and that figures to be amped up even more now that Graham was lost for the season with a torn Achilles last week.
"For a dude that big to be able to play that sudden, that violent, with that kind of pad level, with that kind of bend, I know as pass rushers we really appreciate that," said Ryan Kerrigan. "Just the way that he plays, with the aggression and violence he plays with, couple that with good, crafty skills, I think is one of the reasons he got paid last week."
Sweat and Derek Barnett as the top options on the edges for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, with Kerrigan and rookies Milton Williams and Tarron Jackson mixing in.
“It just shows that they have plans going forward,” Sweat said. “Whatever they have planned, it is what it is. I’m just going to play the role that I’m in right now. That’s what got me here. Just doing what I’ve been doing regardless of what it is.”
The game plan against run-heavy San Francisco limited Sweat's reps a bit. Moving forward against 11 personnel-heavy Dallas, Sweat's playing time should be amped up to a significant degree.
“With some of the packages that you play against, [the 49ers] were in more 21 personnel, 12 personnel, so that just forced a couple different packages for us to be in,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “Sweat will] play more. Looking back on it, he should have played more there, too, but that was just a design of what packages we were playing against, against the 49ers.”
For Sweat, he could have played out the final year of his contract and cashed in even more at a position that demands big money in the NFL but he worked out a trade for the organization that bet on him.
Security for the hometown discount.
“I just thought it was right,” Sweat said. “I thought it was a great opportunity. We came to a great agreement and I thought it would be nice to get some nice security before I went out and played football.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.