Jimmy Graham

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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).

Packers To Sign TE Jimmy Graham

The Packers intend to sign tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The deal provides Aaron Rodgers with a quality red zone target at TE, something they have been seeking for years. 

Last year, the Packers believed they had their answer at tight end in Martellus Bennett. That contract quickly proved to be a mistake, but the revamped Packers’ front office believes that they have a much better solution in Graham.

Heading into free agency, we had Graham ranked as the second-best tight end available. After Trey Burton agreed to terms with the Bears, Graham quickly ascended the ranks to become the No. 1 undisputed top tight end on the market.

Graham isn’t quite as dynamic as he was in his prime with the Saints, but he’s still trouble for opposing defenses, as evidenced by his ten touchdowns in 2017. The Saints were eager to facilitate a reunion, but the bidding got out of hand thanks to Green Bay.

Rodgers is now slated to have Graham, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb as his top targets. However, that lineup could change in the coming days with either Nelson or Cobb being pushed out as cap casualties.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Talks Stall For Saints, Jimmy Graham

Hold the phone on the Saints/Jimmy Graham reunion. The two sides have been seriously discussing a deal, but talks have stalled in recent hours, sources tell Dianna Russini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Discussions aren’t dead, however, as both sides are still hoping to reach agreement. 

Graham has a strong market in free agency with the Packers and other teams hoping to sign him. The Ravens are also hoping to get involved, but their cap situation may hinder them.

Trey Burton‘s new four-year, $32MM deal with the Bears will only help to push Graham’s market and that may be a roadblock in his talks with the Saints. The 49ers and Lions were said to have interest in Burton and they could get in the mix for Graham now that the younger TE is off the board.

This offseason marks Graham’s first experience as an unrestricted free agent. Last season, he caught ten touchdowns for the Seahawks. Graham remains a serious red zone threat, but his career-low 9.1 yards per catch underscores that he’s not the same player as he was during his prime in New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens In Mix For Jimmy Graham?

Jimmy Graham has drawn interest from both the Packers and Saints, but the Ravens are also believed to be pursuing the former All-Pro tight end.

Graham is on the Ravens’ radar, but Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun tweets they are likely not the favorites and could be fighting an uphill battle. This is presumably due to the Ravens’ cap situation compared to the Packers’ and Saints’.

The 31-year-old tight end has drawn interest from the Drew Brees– and Aaron Rodgers-centered teams and would make for an interesting component for two franchises with stacked offenses. Baltimore’s setup is less certain, and the Ravens do not have nearly as much cap space as their reported Graham competitors do.

Despite Graham having not quite been as good for the Seahawks as he was for the Saints, he was still a top-tier red zone option last season. He caught 10 touchdowns — his fourth season with double-digit scores — but averaged a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. But it appears the ninth-year pass-catcher still has a competitive market as a first-time UFA.

Baltimore has cycled through tight ends over the past few years, with injuries playing a key role in that rotation. Graham would represent a clear upgrade from the incumbents.

Packers Interested In Jimmy Graham

The Packers have reached out to the representatives for tight end Jimmy Graham, according to Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Graham is one of the best tight ends available in this year’s free agent crop and is PFR’s No. 2 ranked player at the position.

The Packers tried to upgrade at tight end last offseason by signing Martellus Bennett to a free agent contract. That deal quickly went sideways, but the Packers remain determined to find a quality red zone threat for Aaron Rodgers at tight end.

Graham was the league’s highest-paid tight end over the last four years with average annual salary of $10MM. He’s not quite the same player that he was in New Orleans, but he’ll also cost a lot less for any team that signs him.

The Saints are said to have interest in a reunion with Graham, but the Packers also profile as a contender and should be of interest to the veteran.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.