clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Seahawks not losing much if TE Jimmy Graham and WR Paul Richardson depart

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson discuss how much they’re going to make in free agency.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 edition of the NFL’s free agent frenzy is less than three weeks away, and Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson are both scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Many fans are extremely worried about the amount of production the Hawks stand to lose if both of those players leave. While each made contributions on the field this season, let’s take a quick look and compare those contributions to players that came before them to see what the potential for loss at the margin is.

Since quarterback Russell Wilson joined the team in 2012, the Hawks have had only three starting tight ends in Graham, Zach Miller and Luke Willson. With Graham has started more games than any other tight end on the team over the past six seasons, and both he and Willson are significantly different players than Miller. However, for the purposes of this quick analysis all we’re going to look at is production as a receiver. I don’t think there’s anyone in their right mind who would argue that either Willson or Graham is a better blocker than Miller, but that’s not today’s discussion.

At the second wide receiver spot, however, the team has had a parade of players through the years. From Doug Baldwin to Golden Tate to Jermaine Kearse to Tyler Lockett before Richardson finally took over the role this season. Yet, in spite of the constant turnover at the position, when digging into the numbers we see that production from the second wide receiver spot has been relatively consistent.

So, without beating around the bush too much more, here is the production Seattle has seen from the starting tight end and second wide receiver position from 2012 through 2017.

TE1 and WR2 production during the Russell Wilson era

Season TE1 Yds TE1 TD WR2 Yds WR2 TD Combined Yds Combined TDs
Season TE1 Yds TE1 TD WR2 Yds WR2 TD Combined Yds Combined TDs
2012 396 3 688 7 1084 10
2013 387 5 778 5 1165 10
2014 362 3 537 1 899 4
2015 605 2 664 6 1269 8
2016 923 6 597 1 1520 7
Average 534.6 3.8 652.8 4 1187.4 7.8
2017 Graham & Prich 520 10 703 6 1223 16
Difference N/A N/A N/A N/A 35.6 yards 8.2 TDs

So, that’s it. Based on the averages from 2012 until 2016, Seattle would be losing 35.6 yards of production and 8.2 touchdowns.

Obviously that marginal yardage loss is minimal, and the team can likely make up the 2.225 yards per game somewhere else, however, that 8.2 touchdowns is what hurts. Obviously the team finally figured out how to take advantage of Jimmy Graham as a red zone threat in 2017, and that 8 touchdown difference is large.

However, touchdown production across seasons is not highly correlated, and just as Doug Baldwin has yet to repeat scoring double digit touchdowns since leading the league in touchdown catches in 2015, it would not be unreasonable for Graham to see a dip as well. Obviously, it’s also entirely possible that Graham could see an increase in touchdown catches if he stayed, but there are other red zone threats on the roster who could make the marginal costs to keep Graham not worth it. Is it possible it would be worth it? Absolutely, but there’s no guarantee either way. The only thing that is guaranteed is that Graham is going to be expensive to retain, and the team is already tight enough against the cap that it likely can’t afford the luxury that is Jimmy Graham as an unstoppable red zone threat.

In summary, the marginal production Graham and Richardson brought to the team in 2017 likely isn’t worth the cap space it would take to keep them, and they’re both likely to sign lucrative contracts elsewhere as free agents.