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Graham Added Little To Offense

Brian Gutekunst was named general manager of the Green Bay Packers on January 8, 2018. He’s made over 100 personnel moves since that time – some good and some not so good. I listed his 12 best moves earlier this month, and now I’ll spend the next couple of weeks counting down his worst moves. Here’s No. 5:

After watching Ted Thompson get criticized for not being aggressive enough in acquiring talent, it was a foregone conclusion that his successor would take the opposite approach in his first few months on the job. But after the Bears matched an offer sheet to corner Kyle Fuller and snatched free agent wide receiver Allen Robinson away from the Packers, the opportunities to make a splash were dwindling, and Gutekunst panicked. That’s the only logical explanation for the signing of Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal worth $30 million because there was absolutely nothing on tape to justify making the 31-year-old the highest-paid tight end in the league.

Graham was coming off such a disappointing season in Seattle that even Sean Payton, who coached the 5-time Pro Bowler in his glory days with the Saints, was only willing to offer a two-year contract worth $14 million. Nevertheless, Gutekunst opened up the checkbook and promised that Graham would add a much-needed downfield threat to the offense. He didn’t. Age and injuries reduced Graham to more of a plodder than a thoroughbred, and while his numbers weren’t bad in 2018 (55 catches for 636 yards), he no longer scared opposing defenses and often looked clumsy in the open field and awkward in the red zone.

Gutekunst compounded the mistake of overpaying Graham by keeping him around for a second season. Not only did this cost the Packers about $5 million in cap space, but more importantly, it kept the offense from getting better. To his credit, Graham was a total professional in Green Bay. He played through injuries, and while he wasn’t a good blocker, he at least gave an effort. And to Gutekunst’s credit, he appeared to learn a lesson. A year later, all of his free-agent signings were ascending players under the age of 28.

#8 – Lowry Regressed After Payday
#7 – Moore Was Less Than Expected
#6 – Turner Needs To Be Better

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5 Responses “Graham Added Little To Offense”

  1. Terry
    07/27/2020 at 1:16 pm

    It’s crazy to think that Rodgers has had one good tight end since Finley retired. Maybe Sternberger can finally make that position a big part of the offense again.

  2. Tom Moshier
    07/27/2020 at 3:02 pm

    You know who else we overpaid? Clay Matthews (13 million) and whatever money we gave away to Nick Perry. We moved on from both the very next year. I’m sure Gutekunst had plans to do the same with Graham but other needs were more pressing.

    When Gutekunst took over as GM in January 2018, the Packers had a laundry list of needs. CB, OLB, ILB, S, G, WR, TE, and back up QB. Knowing he could fix everything at once, he had to prioritize the teams needs. Focusing on CB and WR first. He tried to sign Fuller and Robinson and Sammy Watkins. Undeterred by losing out in the FA sweepstakes, he then knew he would have to use the draft to fill those positions. Drafting CB’s in round 1 and 2. With WR’s in rounds 4 thru 6.

    TE was never a priority because Rodgers has never been a throw to your TE type of guy. He likes to throw the ball deep and prefers having two strong WR’s. Nevertheless, Evan Baylis and Robert Tonyan weren’t going to cut it. That pretty much left him with Jimmy Graham. Now, to his credit, Jimmy Graham wasn’t awful the way Bennett was. But he was no Jared Cook either.

    Did we overpaid for Graham? Yes! Did we get our money’s worth? No! But I’m not going to crucify Gutekunst over this signing either. His contract didn’t put us in salary cap hell, nor did he cost us draft choices. It bought Gutekunst time to address TE in the draft rather than over draft the position. So I say Graham served his purpose. Even if it was at a premium price point.

  3. Bill W
    07/27/2020 at 3:37 pm

    Tight end was a priority when Jared Cook was healthy in 2016. Rodgers would throw to the tight end more if he had a good tight end to throw to. Instead, he’s been given Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers, Martellus Bennett and Jimmy Graham.

  4. Mike Savage
    07/28/2020 at 10:13 am

    AS funny as this sounds, there’s a chance we’ll be missing Graham by the middle of the season. We have no idea if Sternberger can even play. There are a lot more misses than hits in the 3rd round of the draft.

  5. Keith O
    07/30/2020 at 4:06 pm

    I think Graham was a far more significant error than #5. The concept that must be considered is opportunity cost.
    That $30 million contract consumed resources that could have been used to sign a more talented WR than Funchess (or resign Randall Cobb in 2019), compete for other FA or leave more room to extend Clark/Bak/AJones. Graham was a shell of his former self and his time in Seattle should have been a huge red flag.

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About Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for close to 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2006. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.