The Green Bay Packers will sign free-agent tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.
Graham, 32, never quite hit it big with the Seattle Seahawks, but he lands in a good spot with Aaron Rodgers, who hasn't had a tight end flourish and stick with the team for very long in years.
Last year, the Packers signed Martellus Bennett to a three-year, big-money deal, and it turned out poorly. They got good value in their one year with Jared Cook, if for no other reason than his clutch catch in the playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, but Cook lasted only 10 games.
In fact, only one tight end in the Rodgers era has caught more than 60 passes in a season: Jermichael Finley in 2012. Only two have caught more than five TDs in a season there as well: Finley in 2011 and Richard Rodgers in 2015.
Catching touchdowns is really Graham's best asset, as he had 10 last season — including nine in an eight-game flourish around midseason. Although his yards per catch were a surprisingly low 9.1 (down from a career-best 14.2 in 2016), there's still a role for him to help patrol the middle of the field.
Some though new GM Brian Gutekunst might be a bit gunshy about signing a big-game tight end, given how the Bennett experiment ended. It was a rare free-agent foray from former GM Ted Thompson, who has moved into a behind-the-scenes role with the club. But Gutekunst reportedly will deliver on Graham, who could help diversify the offense.
With the Packers releasing Jordy Nelson on Tuesday, the offense is going to look quite different going forward. The problem wasn't really the red zone in 2017. The Packers ranked third in red-zone conversion percentage last year, even with Aaron Rodgers injured for half the season. So Mike McCarthy will have to find ways to unleash Graham beyond what the Seahawks were able to do with him.
But once Trey Burton came off the market after signing with the Chicago Bears, and with little news on injury-prone Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, the Packers struck quickly. The New Orleans Saints — where Graham started his career — were believed to be hot on Graham's trail as well.
Graham is not a great blocker; all you have to do is watch his performance against the Packers in the opener for a reminder of that. He's most often been flexed out wide or in the slot as a pass catcher first and foremost. But he can still provide Rodgers a big target who can catch 50-50 balls and outleap defenders for contested passes.