Tight end Jimmy Graham hasn’t brought what the Green Bay Packers expected him to this season. The Packers signed him to a three-year $30 million deal in free agency, thinking he would be the big-time tight end the Packers have long lacked. After catching 10 touchdowns in 2017, they thought he’d be a terror in the red zone.
Graham hasn’t been bad in 2018, but he’s not the top-tier tight end he once was. Still a big target, Graham just isn’t as fast as he once was. Graham has 33 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns through nine games. That’s 13.3 yards per catch. Those numbers are respectable, but Graham clearly isn’t what he once was.
As the highest-paid tight end in the game, Graham will count for more than $12 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2019. That deal could really start to look like the mistake Ted Thompson made giving Randall Cobb a huge deal in 2015. The production hasn’t come close to matching the $10 million annual salary.
Could the Packers look to get out of Graham’s deal early? No doubt.
Pete Dougherty thinks Graham may be gone as soon as next year.
… after (general manager Brian) Gutekunst doled out $13.25 million to Graham this year, it’s hard to see him paying the tight end another $9 million in salary and bonuses next year. This could end up being a one-year rental unless the sides agree to a pay cut in the offseason.
I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. Releasing Graham after the season would leave the Packers with more than $7 million in dead money. It would create $5 million in cap space.
There is a savings, but that’s a lot of dead money. More so, the Packers don’t have much in the tight end cupboard after the season. Lance Kendricks, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan will all be free agents after the season. And let’s be honest, none of them are going to be as productive as Graham anyway.
The Packers would have to draft a tight end highly or try to sign another big-money free agent at the position to replace Graham.
More likely is the Packers try to get the most they can out of Graham in 2019. They could release him following the 2019 season and gain $8 million in cap space.
The good news is the Packers will have some flexibility. They are currently slated to have more than $40 million in cap space.