Trade Jimmy Graham already? It could make sense


Jimmy Graham is beginning to resemble the elite player the Seattle Seahawks were hoping for when they traded a first round pick and Pro Bowl center Max Unger for him last offseason. He’s looking more comfortable in the Seahawks offense with every game. He hasn’t yet had an impact in the red zone, but he’s been a beast over the middle of the field and is becoming Russell Wilson’s primary target on third downs. He’s still only 28 years old, and is under contract through 2017.

So maybe the Seahawks should trade him…

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The NFL’s trade deadline arrives at 1:00pm PST Tuesday, and today Pete Carroll said GM John Schneider is “burning up the phone lines” talking trade possibilities with other teams. No doubt he’s inquiring on every possible good offensive lineman who might be available for the right price.

Our own Keith Myers detailed two trades he’d like to see here. One of those involves the Browns outstanding left tackle Joe Thomas. But Thomas isn’t the only big-time O-lineman Cleveland is reportedly shopping.

That’s right, Alex Mack. 6’4″, 311 pounds, 29 years old, Pro Bowler, University of California product, 21st pick in the 2009 draft. Alex Mack is available.

And Jimmy Graham could be enough to get him.

Mack is currently the 10th rated center in the league by Pro Football Focus. A solid run blocker, he excels in pass protection, an area where the Seahawks have struggled mightily this year. He’s an experienced, savvy center, playing the position all through college. He twice won the Morris Trophy, awarded to the best college offensive or defensive lineman on the west coast. He’s durable and tough, once playing through apendicitis in 2011. He missed 10 games with a broken leg last year, but prior to that had been on the field for every single offensive snap of his pro career.

Jul 30, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Alex Mack (55) during training camp at the Cleveland Browns practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Where this trade works is in terms of team need and salary. Mack and Graham have perfectly matching 2015 cap numbers of $8 million. Mack is signed through 2018 but can void the deal after this season, so the Seahawks would obviously need some assurances that he wants to play out his deal here. But why wouldn’t a center, who’s a west coast native, want to play for a Super Bowl contender with an offensive identity built around running the football?

Ah….. there’s that term. Offensive Identity. And this is the key to this hypothetical trade. Some of you may be thinking this is insane; trading away a young, elite tight end in his prime just as he seems to be fitting into the weekly game plan. But here’s the thing; Graham is a nice piece, but he’s a luxury. Has he changed the team’s attack the way many of us had hoped? Has he helped the Seahawks take the next step in the red zone? Clearly not, as they sit dead last in the league.  His greatest value could be as a trade chip. It would allow the Seahawks to acquire a Pro Bowl center in his prime without surrendering any draft picks.

Likewise, Graham could be enticing for the Browns. Gary Barnidge has been a nice surprise, but he’s no field-stretcher like Graham. The Browns wanted to keep Jordan Cameron, but lost him to Miami in free agency last year. They lack weapons on offense. Graham would be a major upgrade.

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The transition would be about as simple as you can get for an in-season transaction, as it would come during the Seahawks bye week. Mack would be their starting center and an immediate upgrade over Drew Nowak and Patrick Lewis. Luke Willson is a more-than-capable starting TE, while Cooper Helfet provides a nice #2, with Will Tukuafu able to help out the position in obvious rushing and short yardage situations.

We all loved the idea of Jimmy Graham, but his impact on the field has been minimal. Alex Mack as your starting center could dramatically improve the one position group that has to this point held back what should be a title contending football team.

Trade Jimmy Graham already? It would be a bold move, but it also might be the right one.