In the 2015 offseason, the Seattle Seahawks tried to improve the team in a way that didn't really fit with Seattle's scheme. Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle. But now eight years later, are the Seahawks still affected by the trade?
After multiple down years from 29-year-old tight end Jeremy Shockey, the New Orleans Saints headed into the 2010 draft looking to find a weapon to add for their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees. They would go on to take a chance on former college basketball player turned football player, Jimmy Graham. At a massive 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, Graham was an athletic specimen coming out of Miami.
Graham posted a 38.5-inch vertical jump and a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Despite his athleticism, Graham was still looked at as a raw, high-upside, and low-ceiling player going into the draft. But New Orleans would have enough faith in him to take him at number 95 overall anyway.
Are the Seattle Seahawks still affected by the Jimmy Graham trade eight years ago?
The risk would pay off for New Orleans almost immediately, as he would record historic numbers after Shockey left the team in 2011. Putting up 1,310 receiving yards, 99 catches along with 11 touchdowns. Come 2015, Graham would establish himself as one of the biggest receiving threats in the NFL.
A month after the Seahawks' dramatic loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl 49, Seattle would make a move for Graham that they felt would give them a run for their third Super Bowl appearance in a row. Trading a 2015 first-round pick (No. 31 overall), along with former All-Pro center Max Unger for Jimmy Graham and a 2015 4th round pick (No. 112 overall).
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Looking at New Orleans' side of the deal, they would gain reliability on the interior of the offensive line with the addition of Unger. He would go on to retire after four seasons in New Orleans, and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018. With the pick they got from the Seahawks, the Saints would also go on to select Stephone Anthony, an inside linebacker out of Clemson. Anthony wouldn't give the Saints quite the same production as Unger though, and would eventually be out of the league by 2019.
The trade wouldn't work out the way the Seahawks anticipated, however. They would fail to reach their third straight Super Bowl after a loss to the MVP Cam Newton and the 15-1 Carolina Panthers in the divisional round. In addition to that, the acquisition of Graham wouldn't turn out to make a significant difference in Seattle but probably to no fault of his own.
In his first year, he'd play 11 games, missing five because of a torn patella tendon. While in 2016 he'd have a solid outing with 965 yards and 6 touchdowns, and in 2017 he would have double-digit touchdowns with 10. These are solid numbers at TE but aren't quite the numbers he was putting up with Brees in New Orleans. Seattle's utilization of him didn't quite help his case, as they insisted on him being an in-line blocker as well as a receiver which has never been one of Graham's strengths in the first place.
Debatably the biggest addition from the trade on either side would be Kansas State wide receiver, Tyler Lockett. The Seahawks would use the pick they acquired from the Saints, as well as their 3rd, 5th, and 6th round picks to move up for Lockett. He was used as a return man primarily when he first entered the league. However, when he was given a true opportunity to play in 2018, he stepped up and developed into one of the league's best deep threats and became a Pro Bowler while putting up 1,000 yards in four out of five years since 2018.
Former Seahawk and seven-year veteran Luke Willson put it best when ranting on K.J. Wrights's About Last Night podcast, "We're gonna trade our team captain - an offensive lineman on a run first team - for a receiving tight end?" Willson reiterates, "I play tight end, we don't even throw the ball to tight ends. We never have!"