Jimmy Graham has taken his fair share of lumps as a member of the Green Bay Packers and deservedly so. As the highest annually paid tight end in the NFL, the 32-year-old veteran is a shell of his former self. When Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst signed Graham a year ago he thought he was getting one of the best offensive threats on the market while also solving the team’s previous ineptitude at tight end. However, Graham’s production has dwindled in the last few years and 2019 has proven to be a slow start for the former All-Pro. Now, we inch closer and closer to the conclusion that Graham is a lost cause.
Through five games, Graham has 12 catches for 132 yards which has him on pace for 38 catches totaling 422 yards for an entire season. Far less than the 55 catches and 636 yards in 2018. Thankfully, two of his receptions have resulted in touchdowns and that already matches his total from last season. Perhaps there is a silver lining that Graham is an improved target in the red zone under Matt LaFleur but that doesn’t change the fact that he is vastly overpaid.
Gutekunst had the chance to save quite a bit of money this offseason by releasing Graham. Instead, he stuck with him and also convinced Marcedes Lewis to have another go for his 14th season. Clearly, Green Bay liked the combination of Graham and Lewis rather than signing a free agent such as Jared Cook who is now with the New Orleans Saints.
Cook is due half as much as Graham in his contract and is giving the Saints similar production in 12 catches resulting in 131 yards and a touchdown.
At this point, Graham is serving more of a role as a mentor or middle of the field decoy rather than an actual offensive threat. That may have been Gutekunst’s plan all along but we may never know. Graham’s name likely still bears mentioning in the defensive meetings of opponents, however, the fear on gameday is no longer there.
Aaron Rodgers will probably continue to praise Graham and discuss getting him more involved in the offense without it actually happening. On Sunday, Graham had his best game of the season catching all three of his targets for 41 yards and that was without wide receiver Davante Adams.
What stood out about Graham against the Dallas Cowboys was his effort. He actually looked willing to block in the run game and made some noticeable blocks downfield on big plays. As a result, Graham had his best day blocking since 2017 according to Pro Football Focus.
Hopefully, he can continue to be effective in the run game if he can’t produce as a pass-catcher. If not, his value only depletes further than it already has.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. Brandon graduated from Longwood University in 2016 with a degree in mass media. He has covered the Packers for over two years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.