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What Keeping Jimmy Graham Signals for the Packers Heading Into the Offseason

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What Keeping Jimmy Graham Signals for the Packers Heading Into the Offseason

The Packers decision to keep Jimmy Graham for another go around in 2019 was certainly a surprising one.  The once all-pro tight end is nearing the end of his career and does not seem to be the same threat down the field that he once was with the Saints.  

Going into this offseason, I have extensively discussed how I thought it was a bad idea to continue to keep aging, high priced, and underperforming players on this team going into 2019.  With this in mind, I am not a fan of the decision to bring back Jimmy Graham for another season when the Packers could have cut him before March 15th and saved themselves an extra $5 million in cap space.  

Hopefully, the decision to hang onto Jimmy Graham for at least one more season is not an indication that the Packers plan on retaining Nick Perry who is one of the most overrated and overpaid players in football.  Releasing Perry and Graham would have given the Packers over $41 million in cap space which probably would have allowed them to bring in one additional free agent this offseason. 

The move to retain Jimmy Graham signals one of two things for the Packers heading into free agency. First, it could mean that they will continue to sign more high priced older players who are past their prime, or on the contrary, it could signal that they are planning to allocate all of their resources into signing one or two premium players in free agency that they think will immediately make them a contender in the NFC North in 2019.

Retaining players like Graham and Perry could certainly open up the possibility of Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb finding their way back to the Packers which would be a terrible precedent to set for this relatively new regime.  Bringing back these aging players signifies that the Packers are not ready to move on from the past and that they do not have leadership with the conviction to make tough and unpopular decisions for the good of the franchise.  

If the Packers truly believe that Jimmy Graham can rebound from his less than stellar 2018 season, that's great, bring him back.  However, if Graham duplicates this poor performance again in 2019, Brian Gutekunst will have a lot of egg to wipe off from his face, as he will not be able to justify Graham’s price tag which is over $12.6 million.  

My hope is that the Packers just go all in to address their needs, by signing one or two of the best available free agents.  If Gutekunst and his staff are actually able to land one or two premium free agents and draft four or five impact players, then the Packers could realistically find themselves contending in the NFC North this upcoming season.

The reality is there are too many players on the Packers from four or five years ago that are now past their prime.   This was seen throughout the many games of slow and stagnant play, which was the reason for the lackluster performance on the field this year.  

I cannot stress enough that I think that the Packers need to transform their roster by going young. They could realistically contend in the final 2 years of Aaron Rodgers current contract if they are able to draft impactful players in each of the next two draft classes and are able to add premium free agents.  

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (67) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Packersbr's picture

I don’t think it means any of that, to me it just mean that:
1- they are not going to roll the dice for the 3rd time in the tight end free agency market, in addition to eat 5 million in dead money if they cut graham; and
2- if they release graham, did’t sign anyone, and let’s say draft 2 rookie TE, the packers would start the season with a second year undrafted guy (tonyan) and the 2 rookies drafted! Good luck with that!
I respectfully disagree with you

Packersbr's picture

If they had a “jordy to adams like” transition in the tight end position... sure, release graham, eat the dead money and spend elsewere!
But the packers don’t have that transition, so if ou release him, who is your TE1, week one? A rookie or the second year undrafted

stockholder's picture

2018 G 16. Rec.55 . 636 yds. 2 TDs . Nothings wrong! Your missing the Rodgers / Graham connection.

lou's picture

$6.5M per Touchdown per my calculation.

Lare's picture

That's about what they paid Cobb.

dobber's picture

Even at that rate, I wouldn't be able to quit my day job.

Old School's picture

I think they actually get paid for being a gameday active, nor for the TDs they scored.

Packersbr's picture

It does not mean that they don’t want to move on from older guys, ir just means that they don’t have a transition planed

Dzehren's picture

TE’s generally take a year to acclimate to the NFL. Draft a stud TE in first 100 picks and release Graham next year.

splitpea1's picture

Perfect.

Old School's picture

That is how the contract is structured, how it's always been structured, The decision on him was always planned for after this next season.

I don't think we need a stud TE. Put a guy in who can block and catch a pass or two each week. Back him up with another guy just like that. Use an OT as your gameday active 3rd TE. Save lots of money.

If you've got Gronk, great. Otherwise....I'd use other positions to move the ball and score points.

Packersbr's picture

Exacly

Lare's picture

First of all, I don't think we know for a fact that the Packers are bringing back Graham. It's been reported, but a lot can happen between now and March 13th.

That said, I'm sure that Gutekunst isn't acting in a vacuum if he does bring Graham back. LaFleur has almost his entire offensive coaching staff hired now so I guarantee you they've all been in discussions about Graham's status and his potential role in the new offensive scheme.

And finally, I don't think we can adequately judge any current Packers offensive player by his performance this past season. By every account, McCarthy's scheme was seriously disjointed the last year or so. Let's see what these guys can do in a good scheme with better coaching before we judge them on their performance.

Jonathan Spader's picture

"And finally, I don't think we can adequately judge any current Packers offensive player by his performance this past season. By every account, McCarthy's scheme was seriously disjointed the last year or so. Let's see what these guys can do in a good scheme with better coaching before we judge them on their performance."

Can't wait for 2020 when we can say "well that was MLF's 1st year as a head coach so we need to give him a pass what did you expect?". Jimmy Graham sucked in 2018 because he dropped the football and was injured. It had nothing to do with MM. Hopefully he'll be what Packer fans hoped he'd be in 2018 in 2019.

Guam's picture

I am not a Graham fan, but I have to disagree JS. MM's scheme for TE's was not good and that was confirmed when Lewis and Bennett publicly discussed that the Packer offense was not TE friendly. Graham does not pass the eye test for me due to his lack of separation and poor blocking, but MM's scheme certainly did not help him get open. A new scheme will not rejuvenate Graham, but it likely will help him.

To me, keeping Graham was a matter of expediency. Others have correctly made the point that rookie TE's do not flourish in the NFL. The Packers have no good prospective TE's in the pipeline, so hopefully they draft one this year and cut Graham after the 2019 season. Graham is a stop gap for the coming season and I can live with that even if I don't like it.

Jonathan Spader's picture

O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and Hunter Henry all contributed their rookie years. Takes awhile for a TE to really adapt to the NFL but I think a complete player like T.J. Hockenson could contribute in his rookie year if he's on the board at #30 I'd take him. I'd also cut Graham and use the cap savings on Maxx Williams.

I think Tonyan is a TE prospect on the roster already and has a lot of potential. I'm disregarding anything that Marty Bhole says. For Lewis I take what he says with a big grain of salt. I don't know why he didn't get play time in 2018 but that would make me say poor things about a HC.

We just disagree on the direction we want the Packers to go Guam. I see the Packers going younger and more athletic. It sounds like you'd like to see them continue to pay veterans in their decline. It'll be interesting to see which direction the Packers go.

The whole point in my previous comment which you failed to address completely was you talk about wanting accountability from the Packers. Yet as fans we give them every excuse in the book because we want them to be good. I find it hypacritical. Bottom line is the Packers sucked in 2018 for a variety of reasons. There's hope for 2019 with all of the changes but we had that hope in 20q8 as well. All we can do is wait and see.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Graham wasn't a rookie. Tonyan was, but I never know if a player didn't play because he wasn't ready or good enough or if MM just didn't play the guy.

Guam's picture

I don't think we disagree in direction, but we do disagree in how fast. The Packers have so many holes I don't believe they can fill them all in one year. I think Graham is an adequate stopgap for 2019 at TE. As stated before, I would like the Packers to draft his replacement this year and cut Graham for the 2020 season. I would prefer to see the Packers offload Cobb and Mathews and renegotiate or release Perry.

I am not a Tonyan fan so I view the Packer TE situation as very thin even if they keep Graham. I understand your character issue with Bennett, but the twitter thread was simply about the design of an offense that is not TE friendly. No aspersions were cast, it was just a factual assessment of MM's offense by two veteran TE's. I wouldn't discount it completely particularly since Lewis has a pretty good character reputation.

I did not address your comment about accountability because I generally agree with it. It is just the rate of change we disagree on.

Old School's picture

I think if you take the #9 passing offense, give it a healthy QB, factor in some 2nd year development from MSV and others, and improve the offensive line......then you should be plenty able to move the ball and score points.

Our entire starting offense...and several skill position backups...is already under contract. That is good. Before we sign a single FA or draft pick, we can already bring back an offense that has firepower.

A 4 ppg improvement would have us among the top offenses in the league. And that's where I see ourselves in 2019.

Most of our resources....FA and draft....will be spent on defenders.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Sounds good Guam thanks for clearing things up. I don't see as many holes on the roster as a lot of Packer fans. I think with better health, a good draft, and a few key flFA additions the Packers are right back in it. Even if all of that does or doesn't happen the Packers will only go as far as Rodgers can carry them.

Guam's picture

I would love it if you're right and I am wrong about the number of holes we have. I hope Gute has a great free agent and draft season and the Packers are back in the NFC North hunt in 2019. Time will tell.

dobber's picture

If we're calling for better health to be successful, then some of the holes aren't as obvious.

Bearmeat's picture

I agree with you, David. I think GB is making a mistake by keeping Graham. From what I understand, MLF's system requires an in-line TE to block first and foremost. WHY would we keep Graham then?

And if this means we bring back Clay and/or Cobb, I'll be even madder. I'd be all for actually getting Cook, taking a TE in the 1st-2nd round, and dumping Jimmy.

jeepingmakooi's picture

Did you forget that his offense had to change incredibly when walker went down... ? Walker is in fact a tight end..

Tarynfor12's picture

One step forward-New HC and culture.
One step back-Keeping Grahman if true.
Next step backwards-Keeping Perry, signing Matthews or Cobb
Next step forward- Not doing any of the previous.

sonomaca's picture

Maybe Gute doesn’t want to admit he made a mistake.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Gutekunst still is enjoying the honeymoon phase with Packer fans. If one believes that Graham's season was worth about $6M, since we paid him $13.25M, the negative rather than surplus value would be -$7.25M if Gute cut him. For comparison, GB took total cap hits of $7.28M for Martellus Bennett. From a money viewpoint, cutting Graham means admitting a mistake roughly the same size as the Bennett acquisition. Bennett is worse because TT was staring right at Jared Cook and also because of the acrimonious departure of Bennett, which possibly harmed GB's reputation at least among some players.

HankScorpio's picture

If he keeps Graham as reported, the honeymoon is over for Gute with me. That is a choice I just cannot fathom. Especially if they keep him for the full $9 mil in 2019.

dobber's picture

I suspect you'd better start looking at divorce lawyers...

Jared's picture

We are “assuming” that they are keeping Graham. So far BG &/or ML have not said anything about it.

HankScorpio's picture

I hope this turns out to be a key point. The alternative is too depressing to consider.

Dawg0808's picture

So many like this writer should have been coaching, not writing, they know always what everyone should do!

atxcheesehead's picture

I hope the plan is to keep Graham and also seek a TE in the draft. Graham will have a chance to prove to Packers that he is still a star and the rookie will step in and prove Graham can be replaced. Either way its a win win.

Old School's picture

What it means is that our entire preferred starting lineup on offense, minus a RG, is under contract Additionally, several backups at the skill position are under contract for 2019. In January. Before FA, before the draft.

The author is going to have to define "underperforming" to me. He had one of the best seasons by a TE in a Packer uniform over the past 25 years, despite all the dysfunction the offense was experiencing. He was the second leading receiver in the 11th rated passing offense.

So, I just want to understand where the bar is set on this.

Tarynfor12's picture

" He had one of the best seasons by a TE in a Packer uniform over the past 25 years,"...

In other words, the success bar for Packer TE's is and has been low, so some in FO and fan land are easily swayed into a love affair, which I would predict will have those in love saying why-eee...why-eee....why-eee by October.
: )

Old School's picture

Still waiting to hear where the bar is set. Obviously, in your mind, it's a helluva lot higher than 55 receptions and 600+ yards.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Old School,

I don't consider Graham a TE he's a tall WR who lines up in the TE position. He's being paid like a WR so he should have WR #s. 600+ yards is minimum and 2 TDs for a guy who made his living on scoring TDs is ridiculously low. If he was a better blocker the expectations would hopefully be lowered.

Old School's picture

So, if I consider a tail is actually a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

Jonathan Spader's picture

5-6

Travis67's picture

I do not think Jimmy Graham is washed up. McCarthy totally misused his tight ends in the offensive scheme. McCarthy had Graham playing as a conventional blocking tight end. Marcedes Lewis was supposed be a blocking tight end and was rarely called upon. Jimmy Graham is a "hybrid" tight end. Hopefully, Matt LaFleur will use both these great tight ends in schemes that best utilize their talents.

No Zack's picture

Nothing is official till they make the $5mil roster bonus payment on 15 March.

TheBigCheeze's picture

".....that they think will immediately make them a contender in the NFC North in 2019."----------they are already a contender in the North.....it's Super Bowl contender that I'm concerned about....

Point Packer's picture

The Packers are the new Browns. If it wasn't for Rodgers,this franchise would be the complete dumpster it was in the 80's.

fastmoving's picture

If anything was a dumpster fire last year than it was AR and if he was not here we would have a way better roster besides QB maybe. Maybe....
Man, he is the Green Bay Packers and 20 % of the pay roll. But if you look at the salary he underperformed even more as Perry....

Rossonero's picture

I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that the front office and coaching staff got way too complacent, as David Bakhtiari noted in a recent discussion.

Ted was content with Rodgers at QB, so he shrugged and just hoped his draft picks pan out. They obviously did not towards the latter part of his tenure (most of them at least).

LeotisHarris's picture

"First, it could mean that they will continue to sign more high priced older players who are past their prime, or on the contrary, it could signal that they are planning to allocate all of their resources into signing one or two premium players in free agency that they think will immediately make them a contender in the NFC North in 2019."

Where on earth does one start with this collection of words? Unbelievable.

sonomaca's picture

I’m guessing many of these decisions revolve around what they guess Rodgers’ reaction will be. They dumped Jordy and (earlier Van Pelt), and he was pissed.

Well, he’s going to be upset when they let Cobb go, so Gute can mollify him by keeping Graham.

What I would actually do is dump Graham and Cobb, and trade for Jordy who, by all accounts is a tremendous mentor to young receivers, still a counributor on the field, and sympatico with Rodgers.

sonomaca's picture

I’m guessing many of these decisions revolve around what they guess Rodgers’ reaction will be. They dumped Jordy and (earlier Van Pelt), and he was pissed.

Well, he’s going to be upset when they let Cobb go, so Gute can mollify him by keeping Graham.

What I would actually do is dump Graham and Cobb, and trade for Jordy who, by all accounts is a tremendous mentor to young receivers, still a counributor on the field, and sympatico with Rodgers.

fastmoving's picture

or trade for Robert Brooks. Why should we have fast, young, tall WRs when we can have slow, expensive old ones?

LambeauPlain's picture

In MMs stubborn insistence of a perimeter pass game, Graham still managed to be the Packers SECOND best receiver.

And he did this for half the season with a BROKEN THUMB.

I think ML and Hackett are drooling over how Jimmy can make the O go with a dedication to run/play action using player strengths to generate the game plan.

MM stubbornly insisted the game plan was the strength, not his talent.

fthisJack's picture

and Rodgers wasn't Mr. Accuracy on many of his passes last year. he had receivers turning around, reaching back, jumping as high as they could, reaching way down. he did improve dramatically after MM was fired though.

nostradanus's picture

I am curious to see Graham in the LaFlure system, I’m betting he has a big year as he mentors a likely high draft choice and Big Bob Tonyan! Let’s give it a chance my cheesy brethren!
Go Pack!

stockholder's picture

Graham saves them an early draft pick. He Still can catch and was better then R.Rodgers, etc. But why does everyone want a TE? I thought they liked Tonyan. Grahams Age? It's obvious the Fans want that faster TE. A all around TE? The Te's out there have not run a 40 yet. But the draft boards are taking shape. We remember Finley. But we also had Nelson and Cobb in their Prime. The Wrs must be first. If you want a faster/better TE. You must break away from the slower Wrs. Graham is more than a chance. He's buying Time for a new system.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Maybe. 2018 was deep for TEs. 2019 is supposed to be pretty good for TEs. I suppose Graham can buy us that year so we draft a TE in 2020. Does anyone know how the draft in 2020 shapes up for TEs?

stockholder's picture

This years 2019 TEs are better than the Wrs. Nobody knows how they will run yet. Which should spread them out. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri stayed in school. The Te's won't be as Deep.

jannes bjornson's picture

Looks like Graham and three new faces.

Lambeau West's picture

A few thoughts
1. Graham I believe is a Gutekunst signing. Hoping this isn't a TT loyalty thing were admitting an error is not going to be an issue for BG. Wolf had no issue when he recognized he made a mistake (i.e. Ray Rhodes).
2. Agree that we don't have a viable back up but liked what Tonyan showed late in the season. Tonyan may not be ready to start for another year.
3. Could we explore Jared Cook. If we could get him, I'd let Jimmy walk and eat the dead money. Graham's effort stunk and his matador blocking nearly got Rodgers killed all season long.

baldski's picture

I don't think "Chuckie" is willing to let go of Cook. He lit up the field for the Raiders last season.

stockholder's picture

Tonyan is not the answer. The packers will get a New TE later in the 3rd or 4th. I believe Jj sterberger or Kaden Smith will be a packer pick.

fthisJack's picture

Tonyan should have gotten more snaps. I think MM has held these young guys back instead of letting them play and getting them some experience....i.e Jones. he tore up preseason and still MM was rotating him with Williams. avg 5 yards a carry and sitting his ass on the bench.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The last two years of AR's contract are for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. If we aren't going to contend until 2022, I have a completely different plan of action since most of the current roster won't be here in 4 years, probably including some of the FAs signed in 2019.

dobber's picture

Yeah...4 year plans aren't tolerated by NFL fans.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

5-year plans don't have a good track record, either.

jannes bjornson's picture

Ask Belichick what his plan is. Usually, its year-to-year with him. Get value role players for now ,change schemes to fit your people, bring in NEW plays from the College and High School ranks etc. What results does he get? Three in a row not the trifecta every 26 YEARs. His attention to detail is impressive and he is not lazy with his time.

cheesehead1's picture

Still have faith in Gute, although his first dabble in free agency didn’t pan out IMO. Graham underperformed, Lewis was hardly used and Wilkerson was injured. Hope round two this offseason brings better results and obviously we need to really hit in the draft. Also, kudos to Bakhtiari who mentioned in a podcast that players were not held accountable. He mentioned players being late for flights. If you’re not there (and I don’t care who the player is) at a specific time, then they leave without you. Hope our new coach and GM hold everyone accountable. Enough is enough, these young men make unbelievable $$. If certain players don’t buy into the program, then adios.

cheesycowboy's picture

There still is an opinionated tight end on the roster from the Rams.
Lance Kendricks might flourish in this new offensive system on a two year deal. Draft a tight end for development this year. Take the hit on Jimmy, Nick, Randall, Clay...

bigspiker's picture

What is means is Cobb is done. My net goes to players that get on the field. Cobb did not

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