NFL Free Agency is in full swing, and so are the emotions that come along with it. After being linked to Free Agents Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson, fans were disappointed and frustrated. However, news of 5 time Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham should boost the morale of Packer nation.
On it’s face, the addition of Jimmy Graham is one that will make a lot of sense. Any time you give Aaron Rodgers a new weapon who has been one of the best in the business at his position, it’s hard not to like the move. Graham, at least early in his career, was a mountainous athletic freak that opened up the middle of the field and scored at will (with the help of another Hall of Fame QB). Even in his 30’s, with slightly diminished athleticism, he’s a large target, and red zone nightmare. The problem is, however, this move doesn’t come without its potential warts. The Packers have been burned by big Free Agents tight ends before, but let’s dive in and see what to make of the Jimmy Graham addition.
GREEN BAY SIGNS JIMMY GRAHAM
6’7” Jimmy Graham caught 10 TD’s last season and could be the perfect TE for Aaron Rodgers🧀
— IKE Packers (@IKE_Packers) March 13, 2018
Though Jimmy Graham’s athleticism has waned a bit since his time with the Saints, he’s still arguably one of the most prolific tight ends in the red zone. At 6’7″, 265 pounds, Graham is a match up nightmare for corners and linebackers alike. Even with dwindling athleticism, he will need to be accounted for at all times, and with Aaron Rodgers, the possibilities are endless.
Despite a bit of a let down season in 2015 with Seattle, Jimmy Graham followed up with 2 terrific seasons, going for 923 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2016, and 520 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2017. While the yardage drop is a bit concerning, but let’s take into consideration the massive issues the Seahawks had with the offensive line, making any yards in the passing game hard to come by. Graham still posed a huge threat in the red zone, and could be relied upon heavily on 3rd downs to move the sticks (something Green Bay has struggled with mightily over the last 3 years).
3rd & 1 and running at Jimmy Graham?! Bold strategy, Cotton.. pic.twitter.com/QVQB71sj4M
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 29, 2017
Blocking. Oh dear GOD, the blocking. It’s something the Packers can probably cope with, splitting him out wide to lineup against over-matched CB’s. It’s still going to be a problem for a Packers offense in which execution by all parties is crucial. McCarthy doesn’t have much patience for these kind of missed assignments, and guys have had to ride the pine for less. I don’t see that happening with Graham, but may be something to watch if we don’t see him much in early downs.
As I mentioned, Graham is a red zone titan, but between the 20’s, he’s not nearly effective. Sure, he can pick up a few yards for a first down, but he won’t open up the middle of the field like he could in his Saints days, and for a few reasons. Graham’s hands have also been somewhat of an enigma. As every TV announcer will almost immediately point out, Graham is a former basketball player. Shocking considering you need to rebound in that sport how he never can consistently catch the ball. The other, as I mentioned earlier, is he’s just getting older. He doesn’t have that athleticism he had when he was 26 and dominating the NFL. While both can be managed with good coaching and great QB play, it’s still a concern nonetheless.
Lastly, money plays a big role in the risks of this move. The Packers were forced to cut ties with Jordy Nelson to make this move happen. While Nelson had issues with declining athleticism, you are essentially paying that money to another player who is also entering the twilight of his career. Not to mention, while I always support arming Rodgers with targets, this does take money away from other more pressing needs (pretty much every defensive position).
While I bring up seemingly a lot more negatives than positives, the Jimmy Graham move gives the Packers a great chess piece to work with. Despite his flaws and shortcomings, he’s a player that demands respect, and any given game, can dominate an opponent. It’s the type of player the Packers need to compete in a loaded division, and gives them a competitive advantage. So while there are risks associated with the move, it’s hard not to fantasize about Rodgers to Graham touchdowns.