5:41pm: The trade is now official, according to the Seahawks’ website.
2:47pm: The deal has been agreed to, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Graham and a fourth-round choice will go to Seattle in exchange for Unger and a first-round pick.
The Saints have spoken to Seattle and at least one other team about a potential Graham trade, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
2:45pm: The Saints and Seahawks are working to finalize a trade that would send Jimmy Graham and a fourth rounder to New Orleans for Max Unger and a first-round choice, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Just minutes prior to Glazer’s filing, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the Saints were shopping many of their players, including Graham.
Graham’s 2015 salary became guaranteed on the third day of the waiver period, which fell on February 4th. Now, after counting for just $4MM against New Orleans’ cap in 2014, the tight end’s cap number has jumped to $11MM for the coming year. The Saints, of course, are tight against the cap this offseason and have been making some tough choices regarding their veteran players. Dealing Graham would be the most surprising move of all, however.
Less than a year ago, Graham ended an uncomfortable stalemate with the Saints by agreeing to a four-year, $40MM deal. The deal includes another $9MM in 2016 and $10MM in 2017, meaning the annual cap hits going forward are $11MM, $12MM, and $13MM, respectively.
Graham was been the league’s most consistent and productive tight end from 2011 through 2013, averaging 90 receptions, 1,169 yards, and 12 touchdowns per season during that span. Last season, he continued the trend with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Unger, 29 in April, played in just six games in 2014 due to injuries. In that short span, Pro Football Focus (subscription required and recommended) ranked Unger as the fourth best center in the NFL, placing him behind only Nick Mangold of the Jets, Travis Frederick of the Cowboys, and Rodney Hudson of the Chiefs. With 25-year-old guard/center Tim Lelito waiting in the wings, the center position wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of the Saints’ shopping list. Still, the trade gives the Saints a bit of cap relief while also giving them one of the very best centers in the game today.