Long, strange journeys for Braman and Maragos

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Long, strange journeys for Braman and Maragos

They were introduced together. One is tall and big and has long sand-colored hair and a growth of scruffy beard covering his face. The other is short and stocky and arrived with a fresh shave and a tight haircut. It was somewhat startling to see them standing there next to each other -- not because of how physically different they are, but because of the long odds they both beat to make it that far.

On Thursday, the Eagles introduced two new free-agent acquisitions: special teamers Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos. The Eagles signed Braman to a two-year deal and Maragos to a three-year contract. Braman, who was with Houston, hopes to see some snaps at linebacker. Maragos, who was with Seattle, would like to compete for the Eagles' ever-uncertain safety situation. At the least, both figure to play heavily on special teams. Considering the disparate but equally difficult paths they've traveled as football players, that is remarkable.

We will start with Braman, who is a hulk of a man (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) in a long line of them (he said his grandfather was 7-foot-4, 365 pounds). Out of high school, he played a year of football for the University of Idaho.

“Unfortunately,” Braman said, “I didn’t realize you had to go to class and get good grades in order to play football. I had to learn that the hard way.”

He took some time off after that. Braman said he comes from a “humble, blue-collar” family, and so he got a humble, blue-collar job making concrete railroad ties for a company called CXT. He lasted about three months.

“It was backbreaking work for $10 an hour, and it was about 75 hours a week,” Braman said. “I decided I deserved an education over a broken back.”

Braman returned to school and played two years at Long Beach City College. From there, he jumped to the Texas panhandle and landed at West Texas A&M.

“Unfortunately, my senior year, got into some trouble,” Braman said. “There were some character issues that people were questioning coming out my senior year.”

Braman was kicked out of West Texas A&M and later pled guilty to misdemeanor possession of psilocybin (halucinogenic mushrooms). He paid a $2,000 fine and the prosecutor terminated the one-year probation after 30 days, but the initial damage was done. He went undrafted and worked as a bouncer in Amarillo and College Station, Texas. He was also an Abercrombie & Fitch model for a while before the Texans called and offered him a job.

“That’s why Houston sits close to my heart,” Braman said, “because they did kind of give me a shot when no one else was batting an eyelash.”

The 26-year-old became a special teams monster with Houston and was named a Pro Bowl alternate two years ago. He had 31 special teams tackles with the Texans, including one that became a YouTube sensation when he made a crushing hit without the benefit of his helmet. Braman -- who said he once accidently tackled a fire hydrant with his face while playing playground football with his mom’s ex-boyfriend -- said he “wouldn’t advise” making a tackle without headgear. Those kinds of stories are why Donnie Jones, who played with Braman in Houston, called him a “war daddy” for his “will-sacrifice-body mentality.”

“It was a long road,” Braman said, “but I ended up where I wanted to be.”

Maragos managed to avoid backbreaking labor and mushroom possession and face collisions with fire hydrants, but his path wasn’t much easier. Maragos, who is listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, didn’t receive any recruiting attention coming out of high school. Western Michigan gave him a chance to walk on, and he spent two years there before sending a Facebook message to Luke Swan, a receiver at Wisconsin who was also a walk-on. Maragos asked Swan to look at his tape and bring it to the head coach. Swan obliged.

Maragos got a call, transferred, walked on, and switched to defense for the Badgers. He became a team captain for Wisconsin and was put on scholarship in his fifth year. Then he went undrafted. Maragos signed with the 49ers in 2010. He spent the last three years in Seattle where he played 43 games for the Seahawks and earned a Super Bowl ring. Maragos played 51 snaps on defense for Seattle this past season but was on the field for 80 percent of the special teams reps.

“It was kind of real similar,” Maragos said about the unlikely way he and Braman ended up with NFL careers. “And here we are today.”

Nigel Bradham's trial date for battery charge moved to April

Nigel Bradham's trial date for battery charge moved to April

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was originally scheduled to be in court at 9:30 a.m. in Miami on Tuesday for the beginning of his trial on a felony battery charge. 

Now, that trial won't be until April. 

A motion for continuance was filed and the new trial date is set for April 10, according to the Miami-Dade State State Attorney's Office. Eagles OTAs will begin in May. 

The felony charge stems from a July 25 incident in Miami, when the 6-foot-2, 241-pound Bradham allegedly assaulted a hotel employee. The altercation reportedly arose from the length of time it took 50-year-old hotel employee Jean Courois to bring Bradham's group their beach umbrella. 

Bradham pleaded not guilty and has said he "most definitely" expects his name to be cleared from this incident.

This was the first of two arrests for Bradham since July. He was arrested coming home from Miami from the bye week after he tried to pass through airport security with a loaded gun in his backpack. 

After the second arrest, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz famously said, "You do dumbass things, pretty soon, you’re going to be labeled as a dumbass." 

Bradham, 27, signed a two-year deal to join the Eagles last offseason and proved to be a good investment on the field. He played 97 percent of the defense's snaps and played at a high level as the team's starting SAM linebacker. He will have a base salary of $3.5 million this year, with a cap hit of $4.25 million. 

Report: Eagles considering moving on from Jason Kelce

Report: Eagles considering moving on from Jason Kelce

According to a report, Jason Kelce might have already played his final game in an Eagles uniform. 

The team is considering "moving on" from the veteran center by way of trade or outright release, according to PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski.

Kelce, 29, has a cap hit of $6.2 million in 2017 and the Eagles could save $3.8 million by cutting him after a disappointing 2016 season. He's still under contract through the 2020 season, but the Eagles could elect to move on without serious salary cap implications. 

In November, Kelce gave a very honest assessment of his play: “I think that I quite frankly need to do a better job. That’s what it comes down to. I love playing in this city, I love playing in this organization, and if I’m going to keep doing that, I have to do a better job.”

The obvious choice to replace Kelce, if the Eagles decide to go this way, would be 2016 rookie Isaac Seumalo. The third-round pick played six positions last year but did not play a single snap at center, which might be his most natural spot. 

Seumalo didn't play at center because for the second straight season, Kelce didn't miss a single snap. He played all 1,133 snaps in 2016 and hasn't missed a play in the last 39 games. Kelce was a sixth-round pick by the Eagles out of Cincinnati in 2011.