In a move that was not a surprise for anyone involved, tight end Jimmy Graham’s 2020 free agency will begin. The Green Bay Packers released Graham on Wednesday, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. No longer the offensive juggernaut from his days in New Orleans with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Graham’s production plummeted after the Saints traded the All-Pro TE and a fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first-round pick back in 2015.
A drop in production
Graham spent three years with the Seahawks and caught 18 touchdowns, a far cry from his 51 trips during his five years in New Orleans. After a mediocre run in Seattle, Graham participated in free agency for the first time in 2018 and signed a three-year $30 million contract with the Packers, which included $22 million in the first two years.
After two years, releasing Graham will save the Packers eight million in cap space. This was a bonus as Graham was already not expected back in Green Bay due to his lack of production. The former pro-bowler caught just five touchdowns in his two seasons in Green Bay, half of what he found in his final season with Seattle. However, while the box score does not impress, Graham was ranked as TE10 according to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric.
During the 2019 season, Graham earned an overall OSM score of 37.7. He led all pass-catchers in average separation according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, finding 3.9 yards of separation per target. He posted a modest reception rate of 63.33% on 60 targets. Speaking of that target count, it was rather low in 2018 in comparison to the rest of the league, 447 yards on 38 receptions is not too shabby.
While his overall production has dropped since his time in New Orleans, according to OSM, Graham can still be a valuable piece to an offense. While the volume may have been lacking, Graham accelerated in other ways. 23 of his 38 catches were first downs, and he is still able to stretch the field averaging 11.8 yards per reception.
With a new team in his sights, let’s look at some possible destinations.
Jimmy Graham’s 2020 free agency tour
This will now be Graham’s second free agency period; however, this one won’t be as friendly for him. While he can provide some production, after his last two seasons, not many teams are going to give him the top dollar he once commanded. One team that could show interest is the New England Patriots.
New England Patriots
While New England needs to figure out what’s going on with Tom Brady and their QB position, there is a glaring hole at TE after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement following the 2018 season still has the Patriots looking for a TE. New England did not have a tight end with either 20 receptions or 200 yards. The drop in production from the TE position was evident as the offense struggled as a whole last season. While Graham is 33 years old, it seems he still has something left in the tank and could come in and slide right into that seam-route and red zone threat Gronk once was for New England.
Another team that might take a look into acquiring Graham’s talents is the Washinton Redskins. With a new coaching staff and personnel brought in by owner Daniel Snyder, former Carolina Panthers head coach is now the head man in the nation’s capital. After a seven-year stay, which included a plethora of injuries, the Redskins have also parted ways with TE Jordan Reed. Rivera had a strong, tight end in Greg Olsen during his time with the Panthers, and bringing in Graham to fill in that role could go well beyond the field.
While lack of production got him released from Green Bay, Graham was very well respected in the locker room. With Washington’s relatively young offensive core, Graham, along with running back Adrian Peterson currently, could bring some much need experience and leadership to the Redskins offense.
New Orleans Saints
One team that should not go after Graham is an old friend. While it may be tempting for Saints fans to ogle at the thought of a Graham reunion, that would be wasted cap space money and would defeat the purpose of having Jared Cook on the roster. It’s nice to entertain the thought of old memories, but that is how they should stay this offseason – as memories.