The New Orleans Saints and star tight end Jimmy Graham agreed to a four-year deal worth $40 million ($21 million of it is guaranteed) this morning, and it’s a deal that will also allow Graham to pursue another big payday after the four years are up. He’s one of the game’s best playmakers, and there’s no doubt that he is an elite difference-maker in the Saints offense due to his own production and his ability to create openings for other players in the Saints explosive offense. With potentially dynamic rookie receiver Brandin Cooks in hand, the Saints offense has another excellent piece on its hands.
Drew Brees spoke to the USA Today’s Tom Pelissero about his star tight end, as well as dealing with the business side of the game. We know that the Saints rightfully didn’t harbor any ill will towards Graham for appealing the tight end designation under the franchise tag, because they are sensible and obviously understand that most people would try and make sure they are getting as much as they possibly can (the tag was more about leverage, since a long-term deal was generally expected to happen).
Graham is a massive weapon all over the field, and he put up some more big numbers last year with 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns as the best weapon among a talented crowd in New Orleans. Brees had some high praise for the 27-year-old TE when discussing his value to the team, “At the same time, you’re basing your value based upon your comparables around the league, and to be honest with you, I don’t think you can really compare anybody to Jimmy Graham. He’s one of a kind. He’s so versatile. We do so many things with him. He’s really a hybrid. I think he’s revolutionizing the position.
“So, it’s hard to sit back and say what his value is. I know his value to our team is tremendous. But in regards to dollars – I’m sure that’s why there’s all the discussion around it, is how do you designate the value on a guy who can do so much?”
$10 million per year sounds like fair value to me, and it takes into account everything Graham does for the Saints offense on the stat sheet and off of it. Although the New England Patriots were able to shut him down, not every team has a couple of physical corners who can play up against top TEs and sustain that level of play for a full game, especially after one of them went down. That game was an anomaly for Graham, who is generally an unstoppable beast and has indeed played a huge role in revolutionizing the position. There are plenty of other TEs who are used as “jokers” and can make a big impact in the passing game, but very few have his awe-inspiring physical skill-set.