When Josh Sweat signed a contract extension worth up to $42 million last weekend, the magnitude of the moment didn’t hit him right away.
The Eagles defensive end said it wasn’t until after the deal was finalized that he took some time to reflect on the years that led to him cashing in; the doubts that crept into his mind after a scary leg injury suffered in high school, and the steady progress he made each year since the Eagles took him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft.
“Sometimes I do let it slip my mind about how far I have come,” Sweat said during a Saturday news conference. “After signing the deal, that’s when I really reflected. 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. I’ve come a long way, and I’m still going. I got a lot more I want to do. ... Now I want to be the best.”
Sweat, who signed a three-year deal with $26 million total guaranteed last weekend, was considered a high-risk, high-reward player because of a serious knee injury he suffered in high school. He tore his ACL and dislocated his knee so badly that the potential artery damage left him at risk of losing the lower half of his leg.
He was able to make a full recovery, but the lingering concern about his long-term health caused him to slide in the draft. During his news conference, Sweat conceded that it took him several years just to feel close to the way he felt before the injury.
“At one point, I didn’t know if I was going to play again,” Sweat said. “Then going through all the rehab, it takes so many years just to get back to feeling 80%. Now I’m good to go. I have no issues, I haven’t had issues for years now. I just think about stuff like that.”
The Eagles have steadily increased Sweat’s playing time on the team each season, and another increase could be coming for the 24-year-old. Sweat has played 48% of the team’s defensive snaps so far this season — which would already be a career high — but that could rise now with veteran defensive end Brandon Graham out for the season with a rupture Achilles suffered last Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Sweat didn’t play as much as expected in the aftermath of Graham’s injury against the Niners, logging 40% of the team’s defensive snaps. Both coach Nick Sirianni and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said Sweat’s limited role was a matter of game plan. Sirianni also noted Sweat would have a bigger role during most games.
“With some of the packages that you play against, they were in more 21 personnel, 12 personnel, so that just forced a couple different packages for us to be in,” Sirianni said. “He’ll 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.”
Sweat said the Eagles’ eagerness to sign him to a deal even though he’s yet to assume a full-time starter role shows that he’s expected to have a long-term role on the defense.
“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.”
Sweat had the option to play out the season and hit the free agent market as an unrestricted free agent this offseason right as the salary cap is expected to increase by $20 million. It could have resulted in a bigger payday, but he said the security that came with getting a deal done sooner was more important than trying to leverage the market.
“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.”