The Eagles have declined Nigel Bradham’s option for 2020, and the linebacker will become a free agent next month, an NFL source said Tuesday.
ESPN was first to report the move.
Bradham won’t be eligible for free agency until the new league year begins on March 18. His departure was expected. Bradham was slated to earn $8 million in base salary and cost nearly $10 million against the Eagles’ salary cap. The team will save approximately $4.5 million by declining the option.
A message left with Bradham was not immediately returned.
Signed during the 2016 offseason, Bradham spent four seasons in Philadelphia and started every game he played. He was the Eagles’ most consistent linebacker over that span and rarely came off the field in sub packages. He was instrumental on defense during the 2017 Super Bowl run.
Coordinator Jim Schwartz played a large role in Bradham’s coming to the Eagles and was his greatest advocate. They previously worked together with the Bills. Tenacious, Bradham brought swagger and confidence to the linebacker corps. An ankle injury limited him to 12 games last season.
Bradham finished his Eagles career with 344 tackles, 17 for loss, five sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
He had several off-the-field issues during his tenure in Philly. Even before he had played a game for the Eagles, Bradham was charged with assault for an incident involving a Miami hotel worker in July 2016. He eventually accepted a deferred prosecution program and was suspended by the NFL for a game in 2018.
He also was charged with a misdemeanor in October 2016, when a handgun was found in his bag as it went through security at Miami International Airport. That charge was eventually dropped.
The Eagles stood by Bradham, though. Head coach Doug Pederson valued the linebacker’s toughness and dependability. But Bradham increasingly found himself in the Eagles’ doghouse over the last year. Last August, the team feared he had gone AWOL when he didn’t show for the preseason finale at the Meadowlands. Bradham later claimed that he had a stomach virus and that he had forgotten to alert the team.
He also missed a rehab appointment for his injured ankle in November, which had some Eagles coaches again calling for his release. But Bradham had deemed himself healthy and returned that week. Pederson said then that he was fine with his player’s explanation.
Bradham knew that his increasing salary made a return unlikely. He had signed a five-year, $40 million contract during the 2018 offseason, but only $8 million was fully guaranteed. The Eagles aren’t accustomed to expending much in terms of money and draft picks on the linebacker position.
Bradham, who will turn 31 in September, should have bidders when the market opens next month. But if he were to remain unsigned for an extended period, the Eagles could bring him back at a far smaller salary. Last year, the Eagles declined defensive tackle Tim Jernigan’s option only to eventually re-sign him. Jernigan was coming off a significant injury, though.