What will Jimmy Graham’s 2017 Season look like for Seahawks?
By Lee Vowell
Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks has long been one of the best tight ends in the NFL but what will 2017 be like?
When the Seahawks traded solid center Max Unger and a first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for Jimmy Graham, 12s did not really know what to expect. The experiences that Seattle had had with Graham when he was with the Saints did not exactly make Seahawks fans think Graham was the answer to all problems. Graham struggled against the Seahawks. Prior to the Seahawks versus Saints playoff game in 2014, Graham had a…well, we will call it a dispute with some members of Seattle’s defense. Graham crossed the 50 yard-line in warm-ups and this displeased several Seahawks. Eventually, linebacker Bruce Irvin took Graham’s ball and punted it. Prior to Graham coming to Seattle, this was the memory most 12s had of Graham.
Still, Graham has always had a lot of talent. With the Saints he was extremely productive. It was right to question whether this productivity would translate to the Seahawks, though. This was no disrespect to Graham. Simply, the Saints offense was much more conducive to a tight end scoring touchdowns and getting catches than Seattle’s.
Graham joins the Seahawks
In Graham’s first year with the Seahawks, this seeming square-peg-in-a-round-hole mindset fit. Seattle could not really find a way for Graham to get more involved in the offense.
In 2015, Graham’s first year with the team, he had by far his lowest output since his rookie year. Graham was injured late in the year, but even before that he was not projecting to have numbers like in his previous seasons. He caught only two touchdown passes and had 48 receptions overall. Seattle did not have a plan as far as how to use Graham in the Red Zone. Not knowing how to get an athletic 6’7″ tight end the ball when in scoring situations was more the fault of the Seahawks than Graham.
In 2016, though, Graham was much more productive. He did this even though he was not fully recovered from a ruptured patellar tendon. Graham led all tight ends in the NFL with four touchdown receptions over 20 yards. His yards-per-catch were the best of his career at 14.2.
The final year of Graham’s current contract
2017 marks the final year of Graham’s current contract with the Seattle. In November he will turn 31 years old. This is not really a make-or-break year for Graham overall in his NFL career, but if he is not as productive as expected this could be his final season in Seattle. Graham most likely would still want a new contract of $10 million-per-season or more. The Seahawks may give this to him. But only if he is very good this year.
There is reason to think Graham will be just that, however. An even healthier Graham could find more open seams and more space in the Red Zone. Seattle appears to be making an effort to get back to a run-first team. While this could mean fewer targets for Graham, it also may not.
The Seahawks will have their core of wideouts healthy for the first time in a very long time. Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin should all be able to play together. Their speed means that there would need to be safety help deep over the middle. Graham could see more single-linebacker coverage.
Jimmy Graham will never get as many targets in Seattle as he did in New Orleans. The Seahawks simply do not throw enough for that to happen. But in 2017 Graham could see his numbers something close to 70 catches, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Seattle should have a better offense than in either 2015 or 2016. Plus, Graham will have the extra motivation of a contract-year.
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This season, 12s should see (finally) the collaboration between Russell Wilson and Graham work to near-perfection.