The Seattle Seahawks pulled off a blockbuster trade for tight end Jimmy Graham at the start of the NFL’s free agency period.
In the trade, Seattle gets Graham and the New Orleans Saints’ 4th-round draft pick in exchange for center Max Unger and Seattle’s 1st-round draft pick.
The trade addresses Seattle’s biggest weakness in 2014: receiving threats.
Graham is an athletic, 6’7″ tight end who’s third in the NFL in total touchdowns over the last four seasons.
The Seahawks played a combination of Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet, Tony Moeaki, and Zach Miller at tight end last season. Miller, the starter, got hurt after three games and was released this offseason. The other three combined for 681 receiving yards and five touchdowns. As Kenneth Arthur of Sports on Earth notes, the Seahawks didn’t throw a single pass to their tight ends in the Super Bowl.
Even in a down season, Graham still managed 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014.
With Golden Tate leaving in free agency, Sidney Rice retiring, and the Percy Harvin trade going down in flames, Russell Wilson found himself with a lack of receiving options in 2014. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse were the team’s top two receivers last year. Their leading receiver in the Super Bowl was Chris Matthews, who hadn’t made a catch all year until that game.
Graham will be the unquestioned No. 1 option in 2015.
The Seahawks had to sacrifice in other eras to address their need at receiver.
Graham is only one year into a four-year, $US40 million contract, and they still have to give lucrative contract extensions to both Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Combined that with Marshawn Lynch’s extension, and there’s suddenly very little room for Seattle to improve the roster under the salary cap.
The Seahawks also lose Unger, who was pivotal for their offensive line. Combined with the loss of James Carpenter to the Jets this offseason, the Seahawks have to fill two holes on their starting offensive line with limited resources.
When comparing the alternatives, though, the Seahawks did well to get Graham. Heading into the offseason, finding a top-notch receiver for Wilson seemed impossible, given their cap situation. The Seahawks had to give up Unger and a pick, but they still addressed their biggest weakness, gave Wilson a passing target he’s never had before, and strengthened their offence.
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