“Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham” is a statement that’s true and factual.
That was also a sentence that left many of us stunned and happy as a squirrel getting a belly rub on March 10, 2015 when the team traded a first round pick and Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints to acquire Graham and a fourth rounder. Many other Seahawks fans heard that same sentence on March 10 and felt anger and confusion. I’m not here for “I told you so”’s but I definitely hope more people in the latter group have converted to the former.
How could you not?
Despite being best friends (in a weirdly short amount of time?) Graham and Russell Wilson didn’t click very often during his first season with the team. He received 28 targets over the first five games (5.6 TPG) with 21 catches and 204 yards (9.7 YPC, 7.28 yards per target) and that certainly didn’t help the cause of those who believed in the acquisition of a top-three tight end to an offense that hadn’t been throwing the ball very often.
But over the next six games, Graham was targeted 46 times (7.6 TPG) and caught 27 passes for 401 yards (14.8 YPC, 8.71 YPT) despite missing some of that sixth game with a minor torn patellar tendon situation. Sadly even if Graham was starting to prove that he was worth a first round pick and a Pro Bowl center (to some of us), many feared that his effectiveness, if not his career, was ruined by that injury. The sentences over the next 9 months went something like this:
“He’ll never return.”
“Seattle should release him.”
“Probably won’t keep him on a $9 million salary when he won’t even play next year!”
“Can the Seahawks get something in return for a trade???”
“Maybe when he returns from PUP he can be useful in the playoffs.”
“He’ll definitely be on PUP.”
“He’ll 100% start the season on PUP.”
“He might not officially go on PUP, but he’ll miss at least a month.”
“No way he’s ready by Week 1.”
“No WAY he’s ready by Week 1.”
“NO WAY HE’S READY BY WEEK!”
“Okay fine he “played” in Week 1 but barely, he’s finished.”
“Yeah he had three catches in Week 2 but it was basically nothing, so he’s obviously finished. Victor Cruz.”
“JIMMY FUCKING GRAHAM!!!”
“HOLY SHIT JIMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY!!!”
For the last six games, Graham has been targeted 49 times (8.16 TPG), with 34 catches for 492 yards (14.47 YPG, 10.04 YPT) and three touchdowns. The scoring may still be an issue for some fans as Graham has scored only five times in 19 games with the Hawks, but holy shit are you serious? Graham obviously gives Seattle a much higher chance of scoring on any given drive and his two unbelievably athletic touchdowns on Monday against the Bills showed how special of a player he really is.
One who I wouldn’t trade for a first round pick and a Pro Bowl center and then some.
With Wilson, Graham is posting some of the best numbers of his career and the chemistry they have developed now, with the tight end still a couple weeks shy of 30, could really become something to behold over the next 5-7 years assuming the team locks him up for that long; Graham is a free agent after next season but i have a feeling that they won’t let him even get close to testing the market. Despite his contract dispute with the Saints in 2014 that eventually led to him getting dealt the next year, I think Seattle acquired him with the assumption he’d be around for longer than the deal he was on and with the knowledge that he wanted to be paid like a top wide receiver.
And speaking of that deal one more time, what did the Seahawks really end up losing out on? Unger hasn’t missed a game since the trade and I’m sure is still a top-caliber center, but just as I felt on the day he went to New Orleans, he is still only a center. What’s the dropoff between him and Justin Britt at this point and how does the difference in value compare the difference in salary considering that Unger is set to make over $7 million per year starting in 2017. Seattle would have never paid him that.
The Saints used the first round pick on linebacker Stephone Anthony, a player dangerously close to being released following the season despite playing on a terrible defense that needs to add as much talent as it can get. I doubt the Seahawks would have ever drafted Anthony, and that’s a big reason for why they dealt the 31st overall pick: They didn’t like the players available there. They had no first round grades on anyone they figured would be available. Seems like some good scouting by Seattle; Landon Collins would have never been taken by the Seahawks, TJ Yeldon isn’t their type of back/isn’t playing that well, Devin Smith, Dorial Green-Beckham, Devin Funchess are all deeply-flawed receivers. Perhaps offensive lineman Mitch Morse could have been a nice pickup, but at 49, they may have been better off trading up than trading down or taking him at 31.
No the best player they could have gotten at 31 was a player that absolutely, 100% should not have been available with the 31st overall pick in the 2015 draft: Jimmy Fuckin’ Graham.
The Graham we didn’t deserve. The Graham we get to root for. The Graham we get to Graham.