As the Eagles cleaned out their lockers on Monday, there was a feeling of uncertainty in the air.
"Not for me," said Nigel Bradham while removing items from his locker after his fourth season in Philadelphia.
The 30-year-old linebacker seemed to be more confident about his return to Philadelphia in 2020 than I was. After all, the Eagles will have until the end of the league year (March 17) to either pick up or decline his option and it would be pretty surprising if they picked it up.
But Bradham still expects to be back next season.
"Yeah, I don't see why not," Bradham said. "I think I had a pretty good season. I think I played well. I had a couple injuries but that's nothing I can control. Thats' how it goes. I know this game is crazy, there's a lot of decisions to be made. You just never know. I feel like I got confidence. Why wouldn't I have confidence? Done a lot of things here, a lot of great plays, just gotta keep it going, man."
Before last season, Bradham signed a five-year, $40 million deal but those figures weren't real. The Eagles gave themselves plenty of outs.
And the Eagles have team options for Bradham in the next three seasons. If the Eagles pick up the option for 2020, Bradham would have a base salary of $8 million next year. Bradham has been an important piece of the Eagles' defense but it would probably be hard to justify keeping him at that price tag.
So, let's say the Eagles decline the option.
Would Bradham be willing to give his agent Drew Rosenhaus the go ahead to work with the Eagles and figure out a different contract?
He didn't rule that out.
"It depends on what's right," Bradham said. "Obviously, I feel like I'm going into a good situation. I just take it from there. I don't really have a say on what should be done or what should not be done."
The Bills drafted Bradham out of Florida State in the fourth round back in 2012, but he has now played the same amount of seasons and more games with the Eagles, who brought him in back in 2016. During his four years in Philly, Bradham has played and started 58 regular season games and all six playoff games, including Super Bowl LII, during that span.
For the Florida native, Philadelphia feels like home now.
I enjoy Philly, man, the city, the atmosphere, everything this team does, organization-wise, what we believe in. Just being resilient. I really feel like it matches my play style. Just tough mentally and physically, battle through anything, not backing down from anything. Those type of characteristics, I feel like I have a lot of them. Being put in any situation at any position, things like that. When you're in those situations, it's a nice place to be, to call home.
During his years with the Eagles, he's also had his fair share of off-the-field incidents. There was the battery charge in 2016 and then the time he forgot he had a handgun in his backpack at the airport in Miami. But his production on the field has helped the Eagles tolerate those incidents. Since his arrival, Bradham leads the team in combined tackles with 348. He also has 21 TFLs, 5 sacks and 11 QB hits.
And there's no player who knows Jim Schwartz's defense as well as Bradham. Since Bradham played for Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014, he just finished his fifth season in this defense. That knowledge allows the Eagles to move him around and play him at different positions.
During the first four years of his career, Bradham had four different defensive coordinators. So he's quite enjoyed getting to settle into a defense during his time with the Eagles. We'll have to see if Schwartz is back in 2020 - he could get the Browns' head coaching job - but if he is, Bradham would like to join him.
"First time I ever had a coordinator for that long," Bradham said. "I think it's a nice thing, obviously, because I've been in both situations. Just take that into consideration. It's a blessing to have that. I remember having to learn a new defense every year."
If Bradham has his way, he won't have to learn another one next year.
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