Chicago Bears veteran tight end Jimmy Graham is counting his blessing after walking away “unscathed” from a car accident Thursday morning.
Concern for Graham’s wellbeing briefly swirled online early Thursday night after Andy Slater of Fox Sports 640 in South Florida reported the 34-year-old Bears tight end had been involved in a single-vehicle rollover crash in Miami earlier in the morning. Slater was clear Graham had not been injured and “did not even want to be checked out by the paramedics” in an accident that was not considered to be his fault.
Minutes later, Graham seemed to corroborated Slater’s report with his own tweet to reassure fans:
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Graham’s Future Unclear in Chicago
Graham was a bit of an ill-received signing last offseason when the Bears agreed to pay him a two-year, $16 million contract with a no-trade clause. He was coming off two underwhelming seasons with the Green Bay Packers and had been released a year before his contract was set to expire for salary-cap relief, looking to be a declining veteran with his best years behind him.
Graham, however, proved from the onset of the 2020 season that there was plenty still left in his tank. He caught a rally-igniting touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky in the Bears’ season opener and had scored another eight touchdowns by the end of their short postseason run. He also gained a first down on 64% of his 50 receptions, finishing with 456 receiving yards and nearly 200 yards after catch to bring stability to the Bears’ tight end room.
Unfortunately, none of it might help Graham avoid becoming a cap casualty once again this offseason. According to Over the Cap, the Bears still need to clear about $2.8 million in cap space before the start of the new league year on March 17, but much more will be needed for them to address other parts of their roster — such as acquiring a new starting quarterback or extending/franchise-tagging wide receiver Allen Robinson.
It may not be easy given his 2020 performance, but the Bears could create about $7 million in cap savings by releasing Graham this offseason. He is currently set to carry a cap hit of $10 million through the 2021 season and would leave behind a dead-cap hit of just $3 million, an easier pill to swallow with 2020 second-round tight end Cole Kmet ready to step into a larger role for the offense.
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Depth Shrinks if Graham Released for 2021
Kmet made nine starts and played in every game during his rookie season, but he only just began settling in as an NFL tight end toward the end of the year. Twenty-three of his 31 career catches in the Bears’ final six games, including his three-catch performance in the playoffs against New Orleans. But was it enough for the Bears to consider the position secure in his hands?
The Bears have taken some measures to fortify their tight end spot this offseason, beginning with signing Jesper Horsted to a reserve/futures contract in January and continuing Wednesday when they re-signed J.P Holtz as an exclusive rights free agent. Otherwise, seven-year veteran Demetrius Harris is the only other tight end signed for next season apart from Kmet and Graham.
The Bears could reconcile that with some free-agent additions — perhaps a player released in the cap-cutdown wave that is younger and more affordable than Graham — or with a 2021 rookie either drafted or signed as a UDFA in early May. Depending on how Chicago solves its other needs at free agency, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them target another weapon at the position in the middle rounds.