JULY 28: Graham has earned more than $81MM during his 12-year career, but he will attempt to earn a Saints roster spot on a deal near the league minimum. The Saints are giving Turner the veteran minimum and Graham $1.3MM, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson and WWL-TV’s Brooke Kirchhofer (Twitter links). Graham will see a $153K guarantee, per Spotrac, while Turner’s NFL service-time bracket makes his league-minimum payment $1.17MM. Recently signed guard Max Garcia also received league-minimum money from New Orleans, Wilson tweets.
JULY 25: Tuesday has brought a new face to the Saints’ offensive line along with a familiar one to its tight end group. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that guard Trai Turner is signing in New Orleans, while the team announced the signing of Jimmy Graham on a one-year contract.
The news represents a homecoming for Turner (who conducted a free agent visit yesterday), and a depth addition to the Saints’ interior O-line. The 30-year-old was one of the top guards in the NFL during his time with the Panthers, earning a Pro Bowl nod each season between 2015 and 2019. His career has seen him bounce around since then, however, with one-year Chargers, Steelers and Commanders tenures.
The LSU alum battled injuries in Los Angeles, leading to his release following the 2020 season. He inked a $3MM deal in Pittsburgh, then secured a contract with the same terms last year in Washington. Turner worked as the team’s right guard starter to begin the season, but he was benched in favor of Saahdiq Charles for Week 5. In spite of that move, the veteran wound up seeing a 69% snap share over the course of the season in the nation’s capital, and he will look to earn another starting position with his hometown team.
New Orleans has Cesar Ruiz and Andrus Peat in place as their guard starters, though both have dealt with injuries in their career. Veteran swingman James Hurst is also a starting option on the inside, so Turner will have plenty of competition in training camp as he looks to carve out a role and re-establish his value. Like the offensive line, the team’s TE competition will be worth watching closely.
Graham began his career in New Orleans, earning three Pro Bowl nods and one All-Pro honor across five Saints seasons. He recorded 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns during that span, leading the league in the latter category with 16 scores in 2013. His time as a favored Drew Brees target came to an end when he was traded to the Seahawks, a deal which began a series of moves around the NFC.
Graham remained productive during his time in Seattle, recording a 900-yard season in 2016 and earning two more Pro Bowl invitations. His production dipped during his two-year stints in Green Bay and Chicago, however, and his $16MM deal signed with the latter team came as a surprise to many. After the end of the 2020 season, Graham contemplated retirement but instead remained in the Windy City for one more year.
He recorded just 14 catches in 2021, however, and spent the past year out of the NFL. Now 36, Graham will need to prove a continued red zone ability to earn a spot with his original team. New Orleans has incumbent Juwan Johnson, free agent signing (and cancer survivor) Foster Moreau and Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill at the top of the depth chart. Graham thus faces a steep challenge to make the 53-man roster out of training camp.
The 2023 season will be the start of the Derek Carr era on offense in New Orleans. Both Turner and Graham could play a complementary role for the unit if they remain healthy and productive over the next several weeks, but at a minimum their additions represent a feel-good move in both cases.