Ex-Bears TE Named as ‘Iconic’ Gronk Replacement

Rob Gronkowski

Getty With TE Rob Gronkowski announcing his retirement, Tom Brady needs a new red zone threat.

Jimmy Graham spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Bears after he inked a two-year, $16 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) with them in 2020 and now, the 35-year-old veteran tight end is a free agent who has yet to catch on with a new squad.

A future Hall of Famer, Graham has not announced his retirement, and it remains a mystery whether he’ll even play in 2022. That’s not stopping some analysts from naming him the perfect replacement for recently retired tight end Rob Gronkowski down in Tampa.

Quarterback Tom Brady will be missing his longtime favorite target this coming season, and Graham is gaining steam as an option to sign with the Buccaneers.

The Athletic’s Greg Auman named Graham as an option to replace Gronk, and SB Nation’s Evan Wanish also made a strong case for the former Bears’ TE to team up with Brady.

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Graham Would Be ‘Iconic’ Option for Brady, Analyst Says

Calling Graham an “option that would be ironic,” Wanish made a solid case in his June 22 column for the Bucs to give the veteran TE a look.

“While the 35 year old Graham is not the player he once was, he can still be productive, despite a rough season in Chicago this past year where he only managed to get 167 receiving yards and three touchdowns,” Wanish wrote, adding: “Graham was labeled as a ‘Buc Killer’ while with New Orleans, so it would be very interesting to see him land in Tampa Bay to help them compete for a championship.”

Graham’s best days are surely behind him. The five-time Pro Bowler’s last Pro Bowl season was in 2017, and the 167 yards receiving he amassed in 2021 was the lowest total of his 12-year career, according to Pro Football Reference. That said, he’s still an incredible red zone threat, catching eight TDs in 2020 — and at 6’7″ and 259 pounds, he would give Brady a massive and relatively sure-handed target.

Graham dropped two passes on 94 targets during his time with the Bears, per PFF, and while he likely wouldn’t get close to the 802-yard campaign Gronkowski had in 2021, QBs still had a passer rating of 126.3 when targeting him last season. He also played in 31 out of a possible 33 games for Chicago over the last two seasons, so he is still proven to be durable. Brady and company could do a lot worse.

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Graham Could Find Bucs Appealing Landing Spot

After playing with Drew Brees in New Orleans, Russell Wilson in Seattle and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Graham would likely find catching passes from another legend in Brady quite appealing. While he admitted he considered retirement last year, the All-Pro also acknowledged he’d love to win a Super Bowl, which he has yet to do.

“Yeah. I certainly did for a second there,” Graham said in June of 2021, when asked if he had considered retirement last offseason, before stating why he wanted to continue playing.

“I’ve got a lot of unfinished business,” Graham added. “I’m a pretty fiery person. I’m a pretty enthusiastic person. And I hate losing, simple as that. … I haven’t won a ring and that’s all I think about.”

If the Bucs are interested in Graham, that interest would surely be mutual — if he decides to play at all. We’ll see how it goes.

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