In a surprising move, the Chicago Bears are set to sign veteran tight end Jimmy Graham to a two-year contract, per NFL insider Adam Schefter. Graham will make $16 million over the two seasons, with $9 million guaranteed.
Graham was just released by the Green Bay Packers after a disappointing tenure with the team. He’ll head south to Illinois to play for Green Bay’s long-time rival.
Graham will be reuniting with Bears general manager Ryan Pace, whom he knows from their days together with the New Orleans Saints. The Bears need tight end help, and Graham provides a veteran presence, although Chicago signing the 33-year-old shortly after their divisional rival released him with the intent to upgrade isn’t sitting well with some.
Graham had a down year in Green Bay last season, but his durability could be an asset for a Chicago team that had very low tight end production last year — he hasn’t missed a game since 2015.
In 2019 with Green Bay, Graham had 38 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns. As The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain notes, that’s more yardage than every Bears’ tight end had combined last year.
Graham is a five-time Pro Bowler, and he was an All-Pro in 2013 with the Saints. In his last two seasons with the Packers, he had a difficult time finding the end zone, catching only five touchdowns from one of the league’s best passers in Aaron Rodgers.
The Bears were rumored to be in the running for tight end Austin Hooper, who eventually signed with the Cleveland Browns, but money had to factor into their decision. Their limited salary cap space left them with limited options, and Pace’s familiarity with Graham was likely another factor. Still, $8 million a year for a tight end on the decline is a steeper price tag than the Bears should have paid.
Fishbain noted that when Burton’s signing becomes official, the Bears are shelling out the 6th most amount of money in the league to tight ends. When considering the production — or lack thereof — they have had at the position, that’s not a feel-good statistic.
The Bears’ tight ends room is about to look a bit different this season than it did last. Chicago currently has more tight ends under contract than any other NFL team, and a few casualties are coming, with former second-round bust Adam Shaheen likely to be primary among them.
Graham will be entering his 11th season in 2020, and he will be the oldest member of this Bears squad when his signing is made official.