Green Bay Packers: Why it makes sense to keep Jimmy Graham

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images /

Although Jimmy Graham didn’t live up to the expectations that many had set for him in 2018, it does make sense for the Green Bay Packers to bring him back for this upcoming season.

After some uncertainty surrounding Jimmy Graham‘s future with the Green Bay Packers, Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that he would be back in 2019.

Given that Graham was the highest paid tight end in the league last season, his on field production did not match the contract that Green Bay gave him.

However, under the new coaching staff led by Matt LaFleur, a second season working with Aaron Rodgers, as well as a few other reasons that we will discuss, bringing back Graham was the correct decision.

Graham’s contract

During the 2018 offseason, first year GM Brian Gutekunst made one of his biggest free agent signings by bringing in Graham on a three-year, $30 million dollar deal.

According to Spotrac, the cap hit in 2018 was minimal at $5.9 million, but it will jump up to $12.6 million in 2019. Had the Green Bay Packers decided to cut Graham, they would have lost $7.3 million in dead cap space.

Clearly, there were many more issues on offense last year than just Graham’s lack of production, so bringing him back in a new system for what amounts to an additional $5.3 million this season is worth it.

Graham by the numbers

Graham was the first to admit that he hadn’t lived up to the expectations that others had set for him or that he had set for himself.

In a post game interview with Rob Demovsky of ESPN, Graham bluntly stated: “my numbers suck.”

Even though 2018 will be categorized as a down season, Graham was able to surpass his 2017 production in total yards with 636 and his yards per reception at 11.56.

On the season Graham finished ninth in receptions with 55, ninth in total yards and 8th in yards per reception amongst qualifying tight ends.

Unfortunately for Graham and the Green Bay Packers he only tallied two touchdowns, which was down from the 10 he caught in 2017. Graham’s presence in the red zone was a huge reason he was brought to Green Bay but he was unable to deliver.

Misused in the offense

It wasn’t just Graham but the other tight ends on the Green Bay Packers’ roster were misused by former head coach Mike McCarthy as well.

At no point in his career has blocking been a strong suit of Graham’s game. He’s at his best lined up out wide as a receiver would be.

Yet McCarthy would line up Graham on the line of scrimmage as a blocker in running situations and on many passing plays which allowed the edge defender to chip Graham, throwing off the timing of the route.

On the Mostly Football Show, former Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett along with Marcedes Lewis at his side stated: “Mike McCarthy’s offense was one of the worst you could be in as a tight end.”

Regardless of how you feel about Bennett, his statement appears to be fairly accurate given the Green Bay Packers struggles with finding a productive tight end.

Limited options at tight end

As of now, it would appear that free agents Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks won’t be back in Green Bay and Robert Tonyan is still an unproven talent, leaving the Packers with no reliable internal options other than Graham.

The free agent market is highlighted by the injury prone Tyler Eifert and former Packer Jared Cook, who could command upwards $7 million per year according to Spotrac.

Pairing Cook’s potential contract with the dead cap space if Graham had been cut, the Green Bay Packers would be sinking a lot of money into the tight end position.

If we look ahead to that draft, the Packers have been linked to T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant of Iowa. While bringing Graham back should not stop the Packers from drafting a tight end, it would be a tall task for a rookie to come in and be the number one guy on day one.

At this point in his career, Graham is not the same athlete that he once was, but he can still create mismatches over the middle and in the red zone.

Coach LaFleur will use tight ends much more in his offensive scheme than McCarthy did. In fact, before the season-ending injury to tight end Delanie Walker last year, LaFleur centered much of the Tennessee Titans offense around him.

Next. Now is not the time to cut Bryan Bulaga. dark

2018 didn’t go as planned, but 2019 will present some entirely new opportunities for Graham within the new Green Bay Packers’ offense.