Jimmy Graham

Bears To Sign Jimmy Graham

Jimmy Graham has found a new home, and he’s staying in the NFC North. The tight end is signing a two-year deal with the Bears, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

It’s a $16MM pact for Graham, with $9MM of that guaranteed. ESPN’s Field Yates has more details and notes that the deal includes some incentives and a rare no-trade clause (Twitter link).

The Packers cut Graham last week to avoid paying him the final year of the three-year, $30MM deal he signed with Green Bay in 2018. Graham established himself as one of the best offensive weapons in the game during his time with the Saints, having four straight seasons with at least 889 yards from 2011-14. A third-round pick back in 2010, Graham has made five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams.

He was traded to the Seahawks for a first-round pick in 2015, and his effectiveness started to dip after that. He had ten touchdowns in 2017 and was still a great redzone threat, but had only 520 yards. He got the big deal from the Packers but was a disappointment, only racking up 447 yards last season.

He’s been a warrior and has managed to play in all 16 games in four straight seasons, but he’s dealt with a seemingly never-ending string of minor injuries that have reduced his effectiveness physically. Now 33, it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll look like in 2020. Still, he should be an upgrade for the Bears, who haven’t had anything consistent at the position in years despite multiple attempts to address it. They gave a big contract to Trey Burton last offseason, and while they hope to still see a return on that investment, the deal for Graham suggests that Chicago doesn’t have a ton of confidence in Burton at this point.

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Packers To Cut Jimmy Graham

The Packers will release Jimmy Graham on Thursday, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The release will be formally processed on Thursday, sending the tight end into free agency immediately.

This has been the expected move for some time. Despite Graham’s many career accomplishments, the Packers had little reason to keep him and his $11.6MM cap hit. By dropping Graham, the Packers will save $6MM against $3.6MM in dead money.

Graham was one of the league’s most dominant tight ends for a long stretch. In his first eight seasons – spent with the Saints and Seahawks – Graham earned five Pro Bowl nominations. In 2013, one of his seasons ever, Graham was also named a First-Team All-Pro after notching 86 catches for 1,215 yards and a league-leading 16 touchdowns.

After that, he inked a three-year, $30MM deal with the Packers, but he couldn’t match his previous production. In 2018, he finished out with a 5/636/2 line. Last year, he had just 38 catches for 447 yards and three TDs. It was his lowest output since his rookie season back in 2010, and it was a reminder that Father Time catches up with everyone – even the game’s greats.

While Graham won’t have an issue finding another gig, he’ll be joining a relatively deep free agent class that’s led by Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry. It’s worth noting that fellow veteran Greg Olsen got $5.5MM guaranteed from the Seahawks.

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Packers Unlikely To Keep Jimmy Graham

Tight end Jimmy Graham plans to continue playing, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back with the Packers in 2020. The Packers plan to move on from him and the final part of his three-year, $30MM deal, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Jared Veldheer To Continue Playing]

As of this writing, Graham is the league’s highest-paid tight end on a per-year basis. And, as of this writing, he’s set to count for an $11.6MM cap figure. The Packers, in all likelihood, will terminate the deal in order to save $8MM against $3.6MM in dead money. A trade may also be possible, though Graham is well past his best years.

Across ten campaigns with the Saints, Seahawks, and Packers, Graham went to the Pro Bowl five times. In 2013, he was also a First-Team All-Pro as he led the league with 16 touchdown catches.

Last year, Graham stayed healthy – it was his fourth-straight season with 16 games played – but he wasn’t able to play up to his contract. After he registered just 38 catches for 447 yards and three scores, the Packers are ready to move on.

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Packers’ Jimmy Graham Expected To Continue Playing

It sounds like Jimmy Graham will suit up in 2020. On Friday, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said it’s his understanding that the tight end wants to play next year (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). 

Graham is under contract with the Packers in 2020 at a $11.6MM cap figure, the final season of his three-year deal. In theory, the Packers could save $8MM by releasing the veteran, with $3.6MM in dead money.

The 33-year-old played in all 16 games in 2019 – marking his fourth straight season with perfect attendance in the regular season – plus the Packers two-game postseason. Graham no longer features as a dominant red zone threat, but he was still productive last year with 38 grabs for 447 yards and three touchdowns. In the Packers’ pair of playoff contests, he caught seven passes for 108 yards, including a (controversial) game-sealing first down against his old friends in Seattle.

In ten seasons with the Saints, Seahawks, and Packers, Graham has earned five Pro Bowl trips, plus a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2013, when he tallied a league-leading 16 touchdown receptions.

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NFC North Notes: Howard, Vikings, Packers

Although Jordan Howard matched his career high with nine rushing touchdowns last season, his overall and per-carry yardage numbers continued to decline. The Bears‘ starting running back failed to eclipse 1,000 yards for the first time and averaged 3.7 per tote, as Tarik Cohen gained a bigger foothold in Matt Nagy‘s offense. Howard did not make progress as a receiving back, either, in his third year. The Bears are indeed shopping Howard at the Combine, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. One season remains on the former fifth-round pick’s rookie contract.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Also being dangled for a trade, per JLC: Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes. One of three first-round picks in Minnesota’s corner corps, Waynes has been a two-year starter. But he is going into his fifth-year option season, which will cost the Vikings just more than $9MM. With Kirk Cousins‘ fully guaranteed contract on their books, along with several recently extended homegrown talents, the Vikings are up against the cap, holding barely $7MM.
  • One place the Vikings may need funding for is their offensive line. Guard starter Nick Easton missed all of last season, hurting an already embattled unit, and is slated for unrestricted free agency. Rick Spielman said (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer) Easton should be medically cleared to resume his career soon. Easton underwent surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. Easton also fractured his ankle in December 2017, so he may have to settle for a one-year deal somewhere.
  • Brian Gutekunst confirmed what we heard recently: Jimmy Graham will have a second chance to make an impact with the Packers. A possible cap casualty, Graham is in line to come back, per Gutekunst (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). When asked Wednesday about Graham, Matt LaFleur was not yet sure the 32-year-old is the type of tight end that can create matchup problems at this point in his career, adding the caveat of not being in Green Bay last year to observe the physical issues with which Graham dealt.
  • Gutekunst was non-committal about Nick Perry‘s future with the team. Indicating the veteran outside linebacker has been productive when on the field, the second-year Packers GM said a decision has not been made on this front. “Nick’s struggled through some injuries,” Gutekunst said. “It’s been unfortunate. When he’s been out there, he’s been a good player for us. We’ll make those decisions as they come.” It would not be financially advantageous for the Packers to cut Perry. The cap savings would barely exceed $3MM, while the dead-money figure would surpass $11MM. Three years remain on the contract Perry signed in 2017. Perry played in nine games last season and 12 in 2017. He registered just 1.5 sacks last season.

Packers To Bring Back TE Jimmy Graham In 2019

The Packers are expecting to have tight end Jimmy Graham for at least another season, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). 

Rapoport writes that Graham is “due a $5M roster bonus on 3/15, and the expectation now is they pay it and he returns.” Green Bay signed Graham to a three-year $30MM deal back in March, but his first season with Aaron Rodgers was a bit of a disappointment. Graham ended up playing in all 16 games, but he was hampered by a broken thumb the last couple months of the season.

Graham ended up catching 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns. He came to Green Bay after spending three years in Seattle, and hasn’t quite been able to replicate his early career success in New Orleans in either stop. There was speculation the Packers might move on this offseason, but paying him the $5MM roster bonus indicates they still believe he can produce at a high level.

Recently fired coach Mike McCarthy caught a lot of flack for not getting Graham more involved, and it’s possible he could see a late career resurgence under new coach Matt LaFleur. The two touchdowns were the lowest of any healthy season of his career, and the 55 catches the lowest since his rookie season.

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Injury Notes: Graham, Mariota, Darnold, Kupp

We learned earlier this week that Packers tight end Jimmy Graham had suffered a broken thumb, and it was expected that the former All-Pro would be out for the foreseeable future. However, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that Graham is going to try to play on Sunday against the Vikings.

“I know he intends to try to go,” McCarthy said (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky). “That’s his intention…There’s going to be a transition through the practice week and see different splints and things like that. So that’s why you have to work through it.”

The 31-year-old has 34 receptions for 452 yards and two touchdowns during his first season in Green Bay. If he was forced to miss time, the Packers would likely turn to Lance KendricksRobert Tonyan Jr., and/or Marcedes Lewis.

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota didn’t suffer an elbow injury during Sunday’s loss to the Colts. Instead, as head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters, the signal-caller suffered a “stinger” (via Jim Wyatt of Titans Online via Twitter). Mariota may get a second opinion, and there’s still hope that the quarterback can play on Monday against the Titans. Through nine games this season, the 25-year-old has completed 67.6-percent of his passes for 1,583 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also rushed for 255 yards and two scores on 47 carries. If Mariota is forced to miss Monday’s game, Blaine Gabbert would likely earn the start for Tennessee.
  • Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had ditched his walking boot, and ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes that the rookie was seen jogging during Monday’s practice. “It feels good. It feels great,” Darnold said of his right foot. “Nothing for me to complain about. No pain, either.” The quarterback missed the team’s last game against the Bills, but he got an extra week off thanks to the bye. If Darnold misses this weekend’s contest against the division-rival Patriots, the team will turn to veteran Josh McCown again.
  • While Cooper Kupp‘s season-ending injury certainly wasn’t promising, Rams coach Sean McVay revealed that the wideout underwent successful ACL surgery. “It went really well,” McVay said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “He called right afterwards and he was in great spirits. I know if anybody is going to attack the rehab process the right way, it’s going to be Cooper Kupp. Fortunately, some of the things when you do get in there, none of the other things that sometimes can delay that rehab process were affected. It was a clean surgery, did a good job repairing that and we expect him to be able to make a good recovery. Looking forward to getting him back.” The 25-year-old was having another productive season before suffering the injury, hauling in 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.
  • Buccaneers offensive lineman Evan Smith suffered torn labrums in both hips, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). The veteran will have surgery in New York next Monday. The 32-year-old had appeared in seven games with Tampa Bay this season, serving primarily in a backup role. The team placed him on the injured reserve last week.

Jimmy Graham Out With Broken Thumb

Fears surrounding Jimmy Graham‘s status have been confirmed. The former All-Pro tight end does indeed have a broken thumb and will be out for the foreseeable future, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link).

Graham left Thursday’s game against the Seahawks because of this malady, and his first Packers season will be paused as a result. The Packers are determining how long their big-ticket free agent acquisition will be out, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).

While Graham’s touchdown numbers have taken a hit, with the longtime red zone dynamo sitting on two after posting a 10-TD season in Seattle last year, he’s been a key component of the Packers’ passing attack all season. Graham’s 452 yards nearly match his 16-game total from 2017. His 13.3 yards-per-catch figure is more in line with his pre-2017 career averages; he came to Green Bay on the heels of a 9.1 yards-per-reception season.

Green Bay does have an experienced tight end contingent behind Rodgers. Both Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis reside on the Packers after their previous teams released them, and each veteran should be a bigger part of the Packers’ passing attack during Graham’s absence.

This hits a Packers passing game that already saw Geronimo Allison head to IR. Randall Cobb has also struggled with injuries this season. Aaron Rodgers has needed to rely on rookies plenty and will now have to turn to auxiliary tight end options for a Packers team that’s teetering on missing the playoffs for a second straight year.

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Packers TE Jimmy Graham May Have Broken Thumb

The Packers are concerned tight end Jimmy Graham may have broken his thumb in Thursday night’s loss to the Seahawks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Michael Silver of NFL.com first reported Green Bay feared Graham suffered a “serious” thumb issue in last night’s contest.

Graham will undergo further testing today, per Rapoport, as the Packers aren’t yet positive on the nature of his injury. While it sounds as though Graham could potentially play through the ailment (depending on the severity), that too is unclear. Additional information and a recovery timeline should be available once Graham’s thumb goes under more scrutiny.

After falling to Seattle, the Packers now have just a 14% chance of earning a postseason berth, per FiveThirtyEight.com. Those odds are probably still high enough that Graham would attempt to play through his injury if possible, but if not, Green Bay will move on to its reserve options. Backups Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis boast a combined 21 seasons of NFL experience, but they haven’t contributed much this year. Kendricks has played on roughly a third of the Packers’ snaps and managed 11 receptions, while Lewis has seen 17% playtime while posting two catches.

Graham, 31, inked a three-year, $30MM contract in March that includes $11MM guaranteed. Through 10 games, he’s put up 34 receptions on 57 targets for 452 yards and two touchdowns. According to Football Outsiders’ metrics, Graham has been a below-average starter at tight end, as he ranks 22nd in both DYAR (which measures value over a replacement level player) and DVOA (which represents per-play value).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Cousins, Graham, Davis

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts around the NFL:

  • Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): Three years, $84MM. Guaranteed salaries of $22.5MM, $27.5MM and $29.5MM. Guaranteed $500K workout bonuses each year. Up to $2MM in incentives per year. No-trade clause and a no-transition tag provision in 2021 (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN).
  • Jimmy Graham, TE (Packers): Three years, $30MM. $11MM signing bonus, $300K per-game roster bonuses each year. $2MM base salary in 2018, $3.45MM in 2019 and $7.45MM in 2020. $5.67MM 2018 cap number. $5MM roster bonus due on third day of 2019 season (Twitter links via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein).
  • Demario Davis, LB (Saints): Three years, $24MM. $16MM guaranteed. $9.2MM signing bonus. Annual salaries of $850K, $5.95MM (guaranteed) and $7.35MM. (Twitter links via Graziano and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Jeremy Hill, RB (Patriots): One year, $1.5MM. $150K signing bonus. $1M base salary. (via Pelissero, on Twitter, and ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss).
  • Bruce Ellington, WR (Texans): One year, $1.25MM. $730K base salary, $200K signing bonus (via Wilson, on Twitter).