Things are starting to heat up in the NFL. Players are getting the franchise tag, traded, or released. One of the best cornerbacks in the league in Marcus Peters was traded on Friday afternoon. The moves should continue to come and before we know it free agency will be here.
The Chicago Bears need pass catchers, that’s no secret. One of their top targets is tight end Trey Burton, who is more of a wide receiver than tight end. If they fail to land Burton they will have another player to choose from.
That player is Jimmy Graham.
Graham is an unrestricted free agent that will be a popular name on the open market. He also has a connection with Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who was apart of the front office that scouted and later drafted Graham. From the outside, going after Graham seem like the right move for the Bears, but you may be surprised by my final assessment of the situation.
At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, Graham is a great red zone target. He proved it again in 2017 by scoring 10 touchdowns. However, the rest of his production dropped off significantly. For starters, he had seven drops (tied for second-most in the entire NFL) and only averaged 9.1 yards per catch (the lowest of his career). The bottom line is there is a slow decline in Graham’s production, which isn’t ideal for a 31-year-old tight end.
It’s obvious that Graham can still be a red zone target, but that may be about it. The Bears need versatile players and I’m not sure that Graham fits that mold at this point in his career. I’m also having a hard time understanding how Graham had a hard time being successful in Seattle. He had Russell Wilson throwing him the football and at times, the Seahawks decided to not include Graham in the gameplan. That really is a concern for me.
He has also struggled with some minor injuries. It’s important to remember that Graham is basically a basketball player playing football. Don’t get me wrong Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy would love him in the red zone, but what about in the run game? Graham is an average blocker at best.
Graham isn’t getting any older, that’s for sure.
The Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints days is a much different player than the current one. Yes, it would be intriguing to pair Graham with Adam Shaheen. The second-year tight end would learn a lot from Graham, but the cost may be too much. Most analysts believe Graham will get around seven million annually on his next contract. Now, that’s not bad, for say, a two-year deal.
With that being said, it’s uncertain if Graham would take a short two-year deal. Graham will be 32 in November and I don’t see him sticking around like a Jason Witten. He has two to three years left in the league in terms of playing at a high level.
If I’m Ryan Pace, I cut Dion Sims and try to bring in a Trey Burton or Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Both players are younger and have far more upside than Graham. If they miss out on one of them, then they should take that money and sign another wide receiver.
Free agency can be a tempting time (take a look at the players Pace signed last offseason). Many players get paid for what they did in the past. If the Bears were to sign Graham they would be falling into that very trap. If the Bears can’t bring in another tight end from free agency, they could always draft another one. Again, the important thing is to give Trubisky weapons.
Unfortunately, Graham would be more of a liability than a weapon at this point in time.