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Understanding how incredibly rare it is to keep Kelce, Lane, Fletch and B.G. together


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Understanding how incredibly rare it is to keep Kelce, Lane, Fletch and B.G. together

This Eagles quartet is entering its 11th season

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published July 27, 2023


This doesn’t happen very often. Actually, it barely ever happens.

Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson began their 11th season together when the Eagles opened training camp Wednesday, and in an age of free agency that’s virtually unheard of.

"I’ve been here with these guys for a long time,” Cox said. "We all talk about it, we all joke about it. Hopefully we all retire as Eagles, and that’s our plan.”

The Eagles drafted Graham in the first round in 2010, Kelce in the sixth round in 2011, Cox in the first round in 2012 Johnson in the first round in 2013.

All four have made Pro Bowls. All four have won a Super Bowl and played in another. All four are no-brainer Eagles Hall of Famers. All four have spent every day of their NFL career in Philly.

And all four are still playing at a high level.

Graham last year had a career-high 11 sacks in his 13th season. Kelce made 1st-team all-pro for the fifth time in the last six years. Cox had 7.0 sacks, the 3rd-most of his 11-year career. And Johnson made his second all-pro team.

"It still feels good to be able to produce, all of us,” Graham said. "Just enjoying that part, man. To be able to still contribute to this team, to still be validated and appreciated. Because if I can’t do it, I wouldn’t still be out here.”

Kelce and Graham, both 35, are locks to finish their careers with the Eagles. Johnson, 33, is signed through 2027 and playing the best football of his life. By the time he’s a free agent he’ll be 38. Hard to imagine him ever playing anywhere else. Cox, at 32, is the youngest of the group and probably most likely to go somewhere else, especially considering the Eagles' array of young interior linemen.

But when he hit free agency this past spring, he knew where he wanted to sign.

"I didn’t want to go anywhere,” he said. "I thought about it, there were offers on the table, but I wanted to be here. And that’s where I am now.”

Howie Roseman deserves a ton of credit for finding cap space for four high-priced veterans and keeping them happy. 

Johnson is the highest-paid Eagle with a $14.7 million cap hit, Kelce is third at $10.8 million, B.G. is fourth at $10.1 million and Cox is 11th at $5.7 million.

"We’ve played a lot of football together, we know each other well, we’ve been through a lot of battles,” Kelce said. "It’s really rare that that many guys get to play over a decade together, so we’re obviously really proud of the way our careers have gone here, and the way we’ve played together and the way we’ve fought through adversity throughout our 10 years. We’re definitely really happy all of us are returning."

It is rare.

How rare?

We did some research.

• The Eagles are the 25th team in NFL history that’s had at least four guys spend 11 seasons together but only the fifth quartet since the onset of free agency in the NFL in 1993. Most recently, the Bengals from 2010 through 2020 kept four guys together – Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Kevin Huber and Clark Harris.  

• How rare is it for four guys drafted by the same team to spend 11 years with that team? Johnson, Graham, Kelce and Cox are the first since the Steelers of 2003 through 2013, with Larry Foote, Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. In all, there have been 12 sets of teammates in NFL history who spent at least 11 years together with the team that drafted them.  

• How rare is it for four guys to spend 11 years together with one team … and never play a single snap for another team? Last time that happened was the 1983 through 1993 Washington Football Team, with Joe Jacoby, Darrell Green, Monte Coleman and Jeff Bostic. It’s happened 11 times overall.

• OK, put it all together and here’s the operative question: How many times in NFL history have four guys been drafted by the same team, played at least 11 seasons together and never played for another team? It’s only happened three times, all long before the onset of free agency. If Kelce, Cox, Johnson and Graham all retire as Eagles, they’ll be in some pretty elite company. Here’s a look at the previous three teams to hold that distinction, and all three started out in the 1970s:

The 1971-1981 Steelers: There were six guys from 1971 through 1981 who were drafted by the Steelers and never played for another team: Jon Kolb and L.C. Greenwood, plus Hall of Famers Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Larry Brown and Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers won four Super Bowls during that span.

The 1976-1988 Cowboys: The Cowboys from 1976 through 1988 had Hall of Famers Randy White and Too Tall Jones, plus Danny White and Tom Rafferty, all drafted by Dallas and all played their entire career in Dallas. That team won one Super Bowl – in 1977.

The 1977-1987 Patriots: New England drafted five guys who played together for 11 years from 1977 through 1987. Stanley Morgan finished his career with the Colts, but the four others never played anywhere else: Steve Nelson (not that one), Steve Grogan, Raymond Clayborn and Pete Brock.

Interesting to note that the Cowboys’ Rafferty and the Patriots’ Brock never made Pro Bowls. 

So if this current group of Eagles each finishes their career here, they’ll join those legendary Chuck Noll Steelers as only the second quartet in NFL history who were each drafted by the same team, played 11 years together, made at least one Pro Bowl and never played for another team.

This is historic stuff we're seeing.

"We don’t want to go anywhere else,” Johnson said Wednesday. "Obviously, contracts vary, but I think Fletch had other options and he chose to stay here because he loves it here and he loves the people here and I can say the same for myself. Obviously, Kelce loves it here and B.G..

"There’s just something different about this city. You don’t get the same passion for football in other cities. You can’t really find that anywhere else.”


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