Bell, the star Steelers running back, hasn’t played yet this season for Pittsburgh amidst a lengthy holdout related to his contract. It’s unclear if he will report at all. Bell is set to become a free agent this season, and has opted against signing a $14.5 million franchise tag sans a long-term commitment.
Graham, the longtime Eagles defensive end, is in the midst of a contract year too. He’s not quite at the level of Bell, but he’s still one of the most valued players on the Eagles defense and desires a new contract.
He’s just playing through that anyway. Graham touched on all of that — his contract, Bell’s situation — on a radio show on 94WIP on Monday night.
“For me, I just believed that I love football. I’m gonna go out there and play and have fun,” Graham said. “This is my ninth season. I just won the Super Bowl and this is my last year of my deal … I just want to make sure that I’m present in my last season, if that’s the case, with the Eagles and say that I maximized, I had fun.”
As for Bell, Graham said he “100 percent” thinks the Steelers star is doing the right thing.
“It’s just a different situation for me because of where I am in my career,” Graham said. “This is his first contract, or second one coming up. In that position, I feel where he’s coming from because I’m 30 years old, this is my ninth season. I’m on my way out in probably five years, so I think that it’s just a different situation for me .. I just believe that whatever’s coming to me is gonna be there anyway. So just go out there and enjoy your last year — if that’s what it’s gonna be — in Philly.”
At defensive end, Graham plays a position at a premium in the NFL. Even if he’s not currently having his best season right now — he did have offseason ankle surgery and missed most of training camp and all of the preseason — with just 1.5 sacks, but he does have a proven track record. Defensive ends get paid.
Even if it’s not with the Eagles, Graham will likely still see a hefty payday this offseason.
For Bell, he plays a position — running back — that has a shorter lifespan historically in the NFL and has generally been devalued. At his best, Bell is one of the most elite offensive weapons in the entire NFL, and he wants to be paid accordingly. Graham gets that.
“I think he’s making the right decision because he’s a great player,” Graham told 94WIP. “I just think that he’s just standing his ground because I’ve seen a lot of players play in the last year of their deal and get hurt and then that deal is taken from under them.”
“He wants his money,” Graham added.
As for Graham’s own contract situation, it doesn’t sound like a resolution is coming anytime soon.
The Eagles will have a difficult decision to make, as they have limited projected salary cap space in 2019 with Graham, Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks and Jay Ajayi all set to become free agents.
Ultimately, if the Eagles decide to invest in bringing Graham back into the fold as he approaches 31 years old, that probably won’t happen for a little while.
Graham is prepared for the other possibility, too.
“I know I’m 30 years old, and god willing I’ve got five years left in me” playing football, Graham said. “I think, for me, I would love to be here but I understand… I’m at peace with whatever happens because I understand it.”