Tight end Jimmy Graham is the New Orleans Saints – and Drew Brees’ – top weapon, bar none.
And as far as his position goes, Graham is the best tight end in the league, considering Patriots’ party boy Rob Gronkowski can’t stay on the field.
Providing a gigantic frame and the ability to snatch the ball away from any opposing defensive back via jumping or muscling, Graham isn’t your ordinary tight end. And because he’s adept at creating big plays, Graham’s fighting for his right to be paid wide receiver money.
Slapping the franchise tag on him back in March, the Saints have just concluded a grievance hearing with Graham over how much money he should pocket off the tag – per ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter Mike Triplett. Graham’s set to collect $7.053 million this season, but if he wins, he’ll garner $12.132 million, per Triplett.
That might not seem like a whole lot of cash, but New Orleans’ salary cap situation has them biting their nails over the case. According to Spotrac, the Saints have the third-worst amount of cap room in the league, and while they won’t be hurt if Graham winds up winning his grievance, how in the world are they going to afford what he’ll demand after the season?
For the 2015 offseason, New Orleans has just $22,595,209 coming off the books – per Spotrac – and that includes Graham’s 2014 salary. That really isn’t oodles of dough to faciliate with. And should Graham seek wide receiver-type money, it creates a major financial dilemma for New Orleans. He’s arguably the team’s premier player next to Brees, but would parting ways with him be a wiser move?
You’re loco, Johnny. Graham is too valuable to just abruptly trade. He’s one of a kind, and there’s just no way, not in a million years would New Orleans ponder shipping him off.
Quite the contrary, critics. I’m not on my way to the loony-bin. I’m looking at the team’s best interest for future endeavors. And right now, the way I see it, the only way out of debt is to deal Graham.
Think about it. You know how much New Orleans could get in return for Graham if they trade him now? You’re talkin’ a few first-round picks, young talent, and turning one dynamic player into multiple. The Saints may be reluctant to deal him, but being stingy will get them nowhere. They are log-jammed in a grueling conference, and if they envision themselves getting past the NFC’s elite teams, New Orleans needs more than just offense.
Look at how overwhelmed Denver was when they matched up with Seattle; or when New Orleans themselves played the ‘Hawks. And adding an aging cornerback, Champ Bailey, is not a stable option in the long run. Their biggest signing, safety Jairus Byrd, already had back surgery. As a matter of fact, if they hadn’t of overspent to fish Byrd away from Buffalo, I perhaps wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Brees transform the average wideout/tight end into powerful contributors? Lance Moore wasn’t even drafted; Marques Colston was a seventh-round selection, and four picks away from not being drafted; Kenny Stills is a fifth-round pick – you get the picture. Graham himself was a third-rounder. You mean to tell me they can’t find a replacement for him?
Graham has also proven himself to be slightly injury prone. From 2011-12, Graham had nagging ankle and wrist ailments, and this past season he dealt with a chronic foot injury. I’ll give this to Graham, he’s been tough and played through the injuries, but because he’s had a few, and he’s in the prime of his career, it makes trading him that much more enticing, due to the impending return the Saints will receive.
I compare this situation to the Reggie Bush scenario. And what did that result in? Oh yeah, he was dealt to Miami. So, to say New Orleans isn’t exploring the idea of trading Graham is illogical.
This piece is in no way suggesting Graham shouldn’t get paid, because his production over recent seasons are a clear indicator he deserves to receive a wideout’s price range. But if the Saints ultimately decide keeping Graham is the best direction for the team, they’ll lose a lot more than just money, they’ll lose players. Why? Because they won’t be able to re-sign them.
Given Brees isn’t getting any younger, and a fearful defense is probably the only thing standing in their way of another Super Bowl, delivering Brees that dominating ‘D’ would be ideal.
Look at the big picture, New Orleans.