New Orleans Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham will receive $40 million over the next four seasons, and the money he is making will help other tight ends in the long run. While I’m sure Julius Thomas and other “joker” tight ends were frustrated that Graham lost out on his franchise tag appeal, the long-term contract Graham received unsurprisingly shows that teams place a great deal of value on this uber-talented mis-match makers who can be key to the outcomes of games and seasons. Not only that, but the franchise number for tight ends increases as contracts increase in value, because the franchise tag is simply an average of the largest deals at the position.
Former GM and current ESPN insider Bill Polian stated on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “Late Hits” that Graham was “exceedingly deserving” of his deal, and it’s a statement that I’m sure the vast majority of us can nod our heads in unison to. Graham caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns, and there are few players with his physical skill-set or with his ability to open up an entire offense. Marques Colston has metronome-like consistency, but Graham is the team’s most important offensive weapon. The $10 million is at least fair value, and he’ll be able to scoop up another nifty contract after these four years are up.
I’m sure San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis wishes that someone like Polian would state that he’s “exceedingly deserving” of a new deal, but the fact of the matter is that he’s not as good as Graham, nor is he has young. Davis is a great player in his own right, but he shouldn’t leverage himself on the elite 49ers organization this offseason by skipping out on training camp. That said, he is a key player, and almost all pass-catching TEs are underpaid.
Davis probably won’t get a big payday for the rest of his career, but Graham has paved the way to help other TEs, like Thomas and perhaps Eric Ebron in four years, get that chance. Then again, Graham didn’t exactly “pave the way” for it (this would have happened anyway as the NFL market established the values of these talented TEs), but he was an important chip to fall.