Nigel Bradham’s release is because of play, not words

Nigel Bradham is a free agent, and the veteran NFL linebacker is trying to overcome injuries.

Last week, veteran linebacker Nigel Bradham raised some eyebrows when he seemed to suggest the Philadelphia Eagles are not a winning organization.

This week, Bradham is a free agent, cut by the New Orleans Saints on Monday less than three weeks after signing.

If you find it ridiculous the Saints would dump Bradham over a trivial, off-the-cuff statement, guess what? You’re right — the manufactured controversy probably had little to do with his departure.

Since helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl in 2017, Bradham, 31 in September, has been beset by injuries. Following an inconsistent 2018 campaign, the eight-year veteran faded last season, finishing with a hollow 66 tackles and one interception in 13 games including playoffs. That’s as a full-time player and the team’s top linebacker.

It’s likely the Saints got Bradham into training camp, weren’t impressed by what they saw and decided not to drag out the inevitable.

Make no mistake, though, while Bradham’s comments about the Eagles (and to a lesser extent, the Buffalo Bills) almost certainly were not the motivating factor behind the Saints’ decision, the drama does speak to some other concerns.

Here’s what potential suitors will want to consider before signing Bradham.

Nigel Bradham off the field

Anybody who listens to Bradham speak for 30 seconds realizes he possesses a high football IQ (in full disclosure, I covered him in Philadelphia). Yet during a four-year run in Philly, he was no stranger to questionable off-field decisions.

In 2016, Bradham was arrested for the alleged assault of a hotel employee and received a one-game suspension from the NFL. Later in the same year, he was arrested again for taking a loaded firearm to an airport, though the charges were eventually dropped. And in 2019, he no-showed the Eagles’ final preseason game without permission, resulting in disciplinary action from the team.

It’s not necessarily that Bradham is a bad person or somebody who will be detrimental to locker room chemistry. Some Eagles players even cited Bradham as a leader in his time with the team.

If his recent comments are evidence of anything, though, it’s Bradham still hasn’t learned to think things through all the time — the consequences of which can be anything from providing bulletin-board material for opponents, setting a bad example for teammates or even suspension.

As Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz quipped of Bradham after the gun fiasco in ’16: “You do dumbass things, pretty soon, you’re going to be labeled as a dumbass.”

Nigel Bradham on the field

Talent evaluators can live with a few bonehead choices off of the football field as long as the player continues to excel on it.

Unfortunately, Bradham’s performance appeared to be in decline for the better part of the past two seasons, minus a strong showing in the second half of 2018. He also missed four games in 2019 with an ankle injury.

Any team that decides to gamble on Bradham will getting a player who brings unquestioned intensity and toughness — he finished the ’18 campaign with a broken thumb that required mid-season surgery to insert a plate and six pins. The following offseason, he battled through a difficult rehab from foot surgery to make it on the field in time for Week 1. He also has experience playing all three linebacker spots in a 4-3 alignment.

But Bradham has never really been an impact player in terms of creating negative plays such as sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles. He’s more an enforcer in the middle of the field who, at this point in his career, is getting to ball carriers a little slower, and whose tackling is a little less sure.

That’s why the Eagles declined a team option on Bradham in February, saving the club $4.5 million. That’s why the Saints had seen enough mere weeks into his tenure.

Bradham might still have something to offer a team that envisions him in a limited role or has serious depth issues. He’s a three-down linebacker no longer though, which once you take into account the propensity for behavioral problems, may not be worth the headaches.

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