Jimmy Graham’s time with the Green Bay Packers could finally be reaching its end.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Packers are not expected to bring back their starting tight end for the 2020 season and will cut him loose with one year remaining on his current contract, clearing about $8 million in cap space. Graham’s production has been disappointing in his first two seasons in Green Bay with him making just 38 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, his worst receiving numbers since his 2011 rookie season.
Graham was seen as a potential upgrade to the Packers’ tight end position when he was signed to a three-year, $30 million deal back — $11 million guaranteed — ahead of the 2018 season, looking like a sure-fire weapon in the red zone after catching 10 touchdowns in his previous season with Seattle. Instead, Graham caught half as many touchdowns in 32 regular-season games with the Packers and continued to regress with noticeable limitations across his game.
The Packers could attempt to trade the 33-year-old tight end to a team looking to make the most of his final miles in the NFL, but releasing Graham seems the more likely route with his current level of production not justifying the high cost of his contract. He is currently the highest-paid tight end in the NFL, earning an average of $10 million per season.
The future of the Packers’ tight end position remains up in the air with fellow veteran Marcedes Lewis also set to become an unrestricted free agent later this month. Without both Graham and Lewis, the Packers would be looking at Robert Tonyan — an exclusive rights free agent — and Jace Sternberger as their primary options at tight end.
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Graham Has Been a Bust for Packers
A year ago, Graham was looking to push his dud of a first season out of view and prove he could be an important piece in Matt LaFleur’s new system. He was eager to prove wrong doubters who believed he was too “old and slow” to still compete at a high level.
“When I get those opportunities, I have to show (LaFleur) that I’m the biggest, fastest thing out there. I have to go up and get those grabs for him,” Graham said last August, via Jason Wilde for the Wisconsin State Journal. “I’ve been focused and I’m ready to get this thing started obviously.
“I’m about as fired up as I’ve ever been to go and shut a lot of people up.”
Unfortunately, Graham couldn’t back up his big-time talk with big-time play as the Packers spent much of the 2019 season looking for a second receiving threat to pair with Davante Adams. He caught a touchdown pass in the Packers’ season-opening win in Chicago, then went two straight games without a single catch for the first time since he was a Saints rookie.
Graham did deliver some notable performances through the year, including against Oakland in Week 7 when he caught all four targets for a season-high 65 yards. He also came down with some crucial receptions during Week 10’s home win over the Carolina Panthers. But for every one of Graham’s good plays, there seemed to be several more less-than-spectacular ones, whether it be dropped passes, bad routes or underwhelming speed.
Graham has tallied a grand total of 93 receptions for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns during his two years with the Packers, which measures worse than his best individual season in New Orleans — 99 catches, 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns during the 2011 season.