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Did Packers Make the Right Call on Jimmy Graham?

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Did Packers Make the Right Call on Jimmy Graham?

Since the regular season ended, there has been a lot of speculation about the Green Bay Packers moving on from tight end Jimmy Graham. However, Tuesday, it was reported that the organization would pick up his option this offseason in a move that was somewhat surprising.

While Graham wasn't terrible in Green Bay last season, he certainly didn't have the impact many expected when he signed a three-year deal with the Packers last offseason. He caught just 55 of 89 targets and managed 636 receiving yards and just two touchdowns.

Graham was never really able to threaten the seam the way the Packers hoped he would and on top of that, he wasn't effective in the red zone either.

Of course, there were a lot of reasons for that. For one, Graham and quarterback Aaron Rodgers never seemed to be on the same page. 

At times, it seemed like Rodgers was reluctant to target Graham, even when he seemed to have a mismatch. Obviously, Graham did have issues with drops and missed a number of chances to make impact plays, but still there always seemed to be a disconnect. 

The bottom line is that there is enough fault to go around, the question is, can Rodgers and Graham build a better rapport and what can new head coach Matt LaFleur do to make Graham successful?

Obviously, the Packers have some hope that they can get more out of Graham, otherwise, why pass up the $5 million in cap savings that would have come their way, even with his over $7 million cap hit in dead money?

The nice thing is that it theoretically makes tight end less of an urgent need. Green Bay won't feel the need to go out and sign a tight end and now, it doesn't necessarily have to find one in the first or second round or if Green Bay does pull the trigger on a move tight end within the first couple of days, it will remove some of the pressure for that player to start right away.

At the same time though, you have to wonder if that extra $5 million would have better spent elsewhere? 

You could make the case that Green Bay could have invested that money in keeping Clay Matthews or adding a starting caliber safety, however, when you look at the class of free-agent tight ends, it will give you a clue as to why the Packers made this decision.

Even though Graham underperformed last season, he would still probably be the most sought after tight end on the market if the Packers released him. The other top options are Tyler Eifert and Jared Cook, who had a great season in Oakland but might be reluctant to return to the Packers.

Graham showed flashes last season, going over 100 yards against the 49ers and notching 95 in Week 2 against the Vikings, but he wasn't consistent and it's hard to know what he has left in the tank.

However, the Packers obviously believe there is enough there to pay him a $5 million bonus. Hopefully, they are right. 


Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Community Guy's picture

let's see how he does in year 2 in GB. maybe the new offense and a healed thumb will push Graham toward greater success.

mnklitzke's picture

It is funny that people forget how MM could never use a TE like Graham correctly. I can't wait to see what MLF and Hackett draw up for Graham if he still flops then cut him. To much dead money for right now for little savings.

TheBigCheeze's picture

overpaid, useless bum

Old School's picture

Who had one of the best seasons by a TE in a Green Bay uniform in the last 25 years.

The 'out' on Graham's contract is after 2019. That's the way the contract was designed. We'll see what happens this year. But I think an awful lot of Packer fans have some very unrealistic expectations of what a TE should provide to the offense.

One of the best seasons in the last 25 years, and all we do is complain.

stockholder's picture

We had chewy. We had Cook. We had Jackson. We had Bubba Franks. We had Finley. We had M. Lewis. We had Bennett, We had Kendricks. We had a lot of Tes that never became starters. Etc. Etc. Etc. He's not a cancer. We need Graham. The Te situation has been a mess for years. What difference does it make. He's here and he gives us a chance to get better. So he's over-paid like most veterans now. Graham came here with good intentions. Treasure his Time here. He's not going to fumble an on -side kick-off. He's now a familiar face that's part of are offense. At least he stays on his feet!

Since '61's picture

Graham will have a better season in 2019 if he only causes one interception or none.

Maybe he can get faster and improve his hands when he is in the new offense. I’m hoping that Gute can draft a real TE who can be ready for 2020 and then we can chuck Graham and move on. In the meantime I’ll settle for his 55 receptions and 2 TDs with no picks. Thanks, Since ‘61

Old School's picture

The "bad hands" narrative has worn thin with me. Credited with 3 drops in 90 targets. Jared Cook had 9 in 101. Kelce had 7 in 150, about twice the rate of drops that Graham had.

And yeah, I'll be HAPPY with 55 receptions.

dobber's picture

I will be if at least 8 (and hopefully more than 10) are in the end zone.

NitschkeFan's picture

I think it was Mark Twain who wrote, "there are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies and statistics". Sorry anyone who actually watched the games saw a very slow, unable to gain separation TE. His blocking was some of the worst TE blocking I've seen in 50 years of watching football. He played far far below his salary cap hit to the team.

Maybe he was hurt. Old guys get hurt often and it's likely to happen again.

Maybe because Rodgers was mediocre for much of the season. Was it the chicken or the egg? Rodgers was the 17 ranked QB by yards per attempt - partly his fault, partly his receivers and TE's not getting open, partly his O-Line sucking. I know you think the passing game was good but to add to the 17th ranking in ypa, Rodgers was 13th ranked by QB Rating (which steeply punishes interceptions and thus rewards lack of interceptions).

You'll be happy with his 55 receptions, but I would have been happy had he played better (who knows how many more TD's and receptions a good TE would have had) and if he could block better than my grandma.

Since '61's picture

Nitschke Fan - you and I are of the same mind on Graham. I noticed that Old School always conveniently leaves out the fact that Graham and his alleged "great hands" caused the only 2 interceptions Rodgers had for the entire season. That more than offsets his 2 measly TDs.

He was slow and could not block your grandma never mind block better than her. If he played for Lombardi he would have been chucked by now for causing 2 interceptions which should have increased his reception total to a whopping 57.

To think that we let Jordy go to sign this chump is pretty despicable. Case closed. Thanks, Since '61

Old School's picture

Thanks for that quote.

So, because a 19th century writer with no grounding in the mathematical field of statistics said this, it must be true.

I guess I'd be better off relying on the "I drink beer and watch football on TV" guys to tell me the truth.

NitschkeFan's picture

Unfortunately you are too uneducated to understand the quote. It means selective use of stats can be slanted to reinforce a point of view that is not accurate. Sorry it went over your head.

Meaningful stats do tell a story. 6-9-1 tells us a story.

Pro Football Focus ranking Graham as crap tells a story.
Football Outsiders ranking Graham as crap tells a story.
Cheesehead TV ranking Graham as crap tells a story.

$11 million for 55 catches and 636 yards (while Jared Cook for $6 mill caught 68 for 896 yards) tells a story.

Since '61's picture

Old School - You conveniently left out the interceptions that he caused with his great hands. Lombardi would have sat him down and then chucked him for costing his team 2 turnovers on catches that he should have made. End of story. Thanks, Since '61

Skip greenBayless's picture

Again with the chucking Since 61'. You've been on a major chucking spree for the past month I swear. Is there anyone on the Packers you won't chuck? I wasn't here at that time but did you also want Martellius Bennett to be chucked? Just curious.


Since '61's picture

Dash - Yes, I wanted Bennett chucked. I was not crazy about his signing. I had wanted TT to retain Cook which if he did we could have avoided both Bennett and Graham.

During the offseason at least until the draft, is my time to be critical of our team and some of the decisions made or not made by the Packers management. Given that we have turned over nearly the entire management structure, except for Murphy (unfortunately), there is not much to criticize the new GM or coaching staff over. We need to give them a legitimate chance to succeed or fail on their merits and results.

Yes, there are players who I would not chuck and they include:
Aaron Rodgers, Bak, Linsley, Bulaga, Adams, Jones, Williams, Tonyan, Daniels, Clark, Martinez, Alexander, King, Oren, Burks, J. Jones, J.Jackson, Breeland and T. Williams. There may be a few others if I took the time to go through the entire roster. It is not a matter of just chucking players it is a matter of making the Packers better by acquiring better players and releasing the players who either don't help the team win or who hurt the team.

The bottom line is we were 6-9-1 with the rest of the roster we can be 6-9-1 without them. IMO Graham did not make a significant impact for the Packers this season and he did not help the Packers to win, in fact he hurt the team with his poor route running, he's too slow, he was ineffective blocking for the run game, he dropped passes and caused 2 turnovers. Basically he gave us nothing for the $10 million he was paid.

As of now the only silver lining I see in keeping him for 2019 is that we can draft a TE and get the new TE ready to replace Graham by 2020 if not sooner during the 2019 season. Thanks, Since '61

Old School's picture

Wow. Two turnovers. If he'd made those catches, what would our record have been?

Great hands? Never said that. I'm just pointing out that he dropped fewer passes, and a much lower rate, than other TEs in the league who aren't being accused of suddenly developing bad hands.

Myths are comforting because they present the illusion of knowledge. But they just aren't true.

Since '61's picture

"If he made those 2 catches what would our record have been?" Thank you Old School you made my point with that question. Those 2 turnovers certainly did not help the Packers win. So we would have been 6-9-1 with Graham and we can be 6-9-1 without him.

In effect he was a non-entity on the Packers given his ineffective play as a receiver, as a blocker in the run game, his lack of speed, his failure to be effective in the red zone and his causing 2 turnovers. IMO the Packers did not get anything close to the $10 million he was paid for the 2018 season. More like the veteran minimum.

The stats used to justify any players performance are meaning less unless they are contributing to winning games. Graham's stats may look decent when compared with other TEs but they didn't help the Packers win. Graham's stats are like the meaningless sacks the Packers defense has accumulated over the last 2 seasons. What matters is when the stats are created. On offense did receptions keep drives alive? Did they result in TDs? Did they help to run out the clock? Key plays at key points in the game or key points throughout the season. Those are the stats that matter.

I wouldn't care if the Packers were ranked 32nd in the league in every category if they were 19-0. That would tell me they scored when they needed to score and they made stops on defense when they needed to make stops. That's what matters, it may be mythology or an illusion to you, but those are the receptions, sacks, and tackles that matter, the plays that result in winning. The rest is window dressing. What Graham did in 2018 was barely window dressing. What is mythology and an illusion of knowledge is using meaningless stats to justify a player's or a team's lack of performance.

Just about everyone on this blog knows that I am as big of an Aaron Rodgers supporter as there can be and I remain so. However, while his 2018 stats look pretty good, all of us including myself know that he did not play very well in 2018. Whether it was due to injuries, a new receiving corps except for Adams, a poor OL, lack of practice time, rust from missing most of 2017 or all of the above, Rodgers was as much a part of the failed 2018 season as any one else and owns his share of blame for the poor results, along with Graham and the rest of the team. BTW, I'm done with Graham until the 2019 season and if he plays well in 2019 I'll give him the credit he deserves the same as the criticism. That is only fair. Thanks, Since '61

Old School's picture

I think we could remove anybody from last year's team and still go 6-9-1. Anybody, including Graham, Rodgers, Adams or whatever. Hell.....if we had removed Montgomery a week earlier we might have won another game.

If we were 19-0, we wouldn't be ranked last in every category. If your point was that winning is more important than stats, I agree, but the two overlap quite a bit in a Venn diagram.

I don't understand why you would say that a fact is meaningless unless it helps win games. I think fact are facts, and facts should shape your thinking, not vice-versa.

Look....I didn't like the Graham signing. I'm an Ed West guy who just wants a TE who can get his guy blocked and maybe catch some short passes around the endzone. I don't need some converted power-forward streaking down the middle of the field to move the ball and score points.

But he's here. The data shows he had a pretty decent season compared to other TEs in the league (most of whom did not make the playoffs) I think this pointless bashing of him is largely nonsense, quite frankly.

Here's the deal as I see it: In one month, we've hired an HC who has built his staff and our entire starting offense is under contract . Without have to spend a single draft pick, make a single trade, or signing a single FA.

So that's a good thing, IMO. Every receiver on the team has a year of familiarity with Rodgers, and vice-versa. No more first-year learning curve. Two pretty good RBs. If we just strengthen the offensive line a little bit we certainly can put a Top 4 type of offense on the field.

This means, IMO, that the bulk of our resources (FA money and draft choices) are going to be spent improving the other side of the ball. This is a good thing too. Instead of spending a high pick on a TE, we can spend that pick on guys who can cover and tackle.

dobber's picture

We've argued this before: just because a pass-catcher is credited with 2 drops doesn't mean that there weren't a ton he should have caught. Michael Jordan only fouled out of 10 games in his career, but even he admits he committed more than 6 fouls in a game many more times than that.

Old School's picture

Yeah, but Babe Ruth never fouled out of a game.

I'm not sure your metaphor quite works there. Passes that "should have been caught" sounds like a pretty subjective category to me.

dobber's picture

So are fouls that should have been called. It doesn't mean they don't exist.

Bearmeat's picture

While MM's offense and ARod's frustrating habit of going deep hurt, the plain fact is that Graham can't run anymore. He couldn't his last 2 years in Seattle either. It was a stupid signing when Gute did it, and it remains stupid.

That said, there is some financial sense in keeping him for this year fiscally. As long as you draft a HWS developmental TE. If we can get even mediocre TE play out of the TE position - albeit overpaid mediocre play - that will help the offense out a lot.

That said, Graham had better block better than he did this year. MLF's offense needs a blocking TE.

dobber's picture

"It was a stupid signing when Gute did it, and it remains stupid."

Don't candy-coat it, Bear. Tell us what you really think...

NitschkeFan's picture

"some financial sense" ??? Last week this blog site had an article that said the Pack could save $9 million in cap space by cutting Graham.

$9,000,000 more in cap space

Don't tell me his production in 2019 couldn't be replaced by a rookie (maybe pick 30 in 1st round) and a $3-5 million free agent. Thus saving another few million to upgrade someplace else.

Bearmeat's picture

Oh I agree with you. I'm just saying that any veteran who can come in and produce right away is going to cost money. Say, 4 million minimum. Rookie TE's just don't play well in year 1. That position takes time to grow into.

So, if you cut Graham post June 1, save the 9 million, and bring in another veteran TE at 4-5 million, you're only "saving" 4-5 million this year, and you losing some off of next year's cap.

Hence "makes some financial sense." I'd still cut him personally.

dobber's picture

You're right: I can't tell you that. What I can tell you is that cutting Graham loose before his bonus kicks in creates a completely different set of unpredictable problems in terms of roster management (can they get the player(s) they covet in FA without overpaying or through the draft without overdrafting?). I don't think we're in an "anything would be better" situation when it comes to Graham. I'm not convinced that a rookie and a $3-5M FA will match his production...but we don't know what his production will be, either. That's not to say that the Packers won't sign their choice of NFL TE FAs, get an agreement done during the tampering period, then sign that FA on March 14 and release Graham before his bonus kicks in.

That said, I agree: I don't think #80 earned his keep last season. Would I bring him back this year? I'd have to be pretty confident that he'll be a more impactful player than he was in 2018, and that his staying in town creates a more flexible player procurement plan than cutting him would. There are a lot of holes to fill on this roster.

Old School's picture

So the message we want to send prospective FAs this offseason is "If we don't think you have a good year, we're going to void the deal and eat the signing bonus and release you"? And if you're a FA, the reason you'd choose us instead of a surer thing in a warmer place is.....?

I'm not sure how that helps us. I'm sure somebody will explain it.

dobber's picture

When a contract is really bad for a team, it happens. Welcome to the NFL. It doesn't stop other teams. Sometimes they renegotiate a deal rather than cutting a player, but things like this do happen.

I'm not saying that it would have no impact on a team's rep when signing FAs. Signing bonus comes up front. Those guys get their coin.

stockholder's picture

Consider Te filled. CBS just released another mock. #12 is Simmons. Replacing Wilkerson. Packers biggest tip off is CM3. If Sweat, Burns, and Polite don't run a good 40, they will drop. (And if Simmons is gone. Trade down coming!)

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

A team can't void a contract. They can exercise the rights contained in the contract, one of which is releasing a player and paying whatever is still owed.

I don't think FAs have an expectation that they will be allowed to play out their free agency contract regardless of how they perform. I do think there is more than a kernel of truth in your comment, though. If FAs perceive that GB doesn't give FAs a fair chance to succeed, then they indeed might be less likely to sign here.

I've been against your point of view for some time now, Old School, and even when I started to reply still was, but I think you've got a point here. And I don't think cutting Graham is a no-brainer. Hmmm. [Is it allowed on CHTV or the internet in general to change one's mind? Asking for a friend.]

Old School's picture

Welcome to the Dark Side.

Old School's picture

Welcome to the Dark Side.

Old School's picture

Welcome to the Dark Side.

Lare's picture

You can say that again.

Qoojo's picture

Magic 8 Ball says, "Ask again later"

dobber's picture

I want my magic 8-ball back! ;)

OldPacker's picture

100% keeping Graham ..MM was the real issue with his performance .. believe me if AR would have had anything negative to say about him.. he would be gone !

EddieLeeIvory's picture

3 or 4 times I can clearly remember Graham having chances for catches in the end zone he failed to catch.
Jordy in the end zone with Rodgers?

Blocking..... Graham made a couple real nice blocks this season.

ricky's picture

The key words in the article was that AR and JG never seemed to have any chemistry on the field. If Rodgers isn't going to throw to him, Graham will continue to have minimal impact on the offense. If he can be the guy to find an open space in the defense and "sit down" in it, like Jason Witten made a career of doing, he could be quite valuable. But, will Rodgers throw him the ball? And if he doesn't will LaFleur hold him acccountable?

HankScorpio's picture

"However, the Packers obviously believe there is enough there to pay him a $5 million bonus. Hopefully, they are right. "

Until they pay it, or confirm they plan on paying it, I remain hopeful they are not that foolish. I keep hearing that accountability is a big deal. Keeping Graham at $9 mil (not just $5 mil) would send a clear message that it is not.

Swisch's picture

If Graham is a poor blocker, then maybe the idea that Dash has had about signing Jeff Janis as a tight end could actually be a good consideration.
In other words, perhaps Janis can block as well as Graham or better, but can be more speedy and athletic than Graham as a receiver.
With linebackers getting smaller and faster, then perhaps it's good to have at least one tight end who is smaller and faster.
Perhaps a guy like Janis is able to block a smaller and faster linebacker, while being able to outrun and outmaneuver him.
Even if we keep Graham, it may be worthwhile giving Janis an opportunity at tight end, or even Kumerow.
It's always worthwhile to consider the next new advancements in pro football before the other guys do.

Lambeau West's picture

Graham - poor effort is a choice. This guy has no speed anymore. His red zone potential never materialized. Can't tell you how many times he didn't come down when he was thrown a contested ball. With his size he should dominate. He played much smaller than his size.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I thought AR force fed Graham. I certainly don't think AR was reluctant to throw to Graham for most of the season.

AR was apparently delighted that GB signed Graham and had been hopeful that he'd come to GB for years. That is why QBs should not be GMs.

Lare's picture

Didn't Favre's problems in Green Bay start when he wanted TT to bring in Randy Moss?

dobber's picture

Favre's problems in GB started when Mike Holmgren went to Seattle.

Pack71Attack's picture

Apples and oranges. Comparing players in different systems is an exercise in futility. The question is, how will Graham do in the new system? Will he get more catches and yards? Debating that in January and February is fun but pointless.

We aren't bringing in the Kansas City offense, so comparing anybody to their tight end ignores that little fact. I don't have a problem with us keeping him through free agency and the draft. He maybe the season long starter. I expect to see the yards per catch to see a significant increase because that tends to happen in this offense. When you run and pass effectively, the TE gets in the clear periodically.....

Daren726's picture

MM didn’t know how to use him. He was hurt most of the year, and a little slower due to age. I think a fresh year and a fresh system could make a difference, although it’s a gamble. MLF May know how to use him better. His cap hit is too high to just let him go. I think he’ll be a good mentor to Bob Tonyan, and if they draft another TE, for him as well. Don’t judge hm too hard on 2019. It was a wasted year for the whole team, not just Jimmy. MM’s offense was just a mess. I say give him another chance, since we have to eat the money anyway.

D Ernie's picture

Graham was informed he must get taller, faster and younger before spring training. Hey the guy is washed up but apparently cheap ball is still going to be part of the packers forte. If they get rid of the 12 pick to acquire late round picks, then we will all know nothing has changed.

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