Seahawks Move Into Super Bowl Favored Role With Jimmy Graham
Tuesday was supposed to be a very busy day in the NFL but that was in terms of free agents switching teams as that became officially allowed at 4 p.m. ET. And while there was a ton of movement, by far the most stunning thing to happen was New Orleans trading Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, arguably the team's second-most important player behind quarterback Drew Brees, to Seattle. Wow. The trade immediately jumped Seattle into the +600 favored role at Sportsbook.ag to win Super Bowl 50. It had been behind New England just a shade and tied with Green Bay.
Graham Best In NFC
Graham caught 85 passes for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns last season but was less effective than ever as a downfield threat, averaging a career-low 10.5 yards per reception. Still, he has 4,752 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns since entering the NFL as a third-round pick in 2010. In his five seasons with the Saints, Graham had more receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns than any other tight end in team history.
It certainly fits a giant need on Seattle. Seahawks tight ends combined for 48 receptions in the 2014 season, sixth fewest in the NFL. Quarterback Russell Wilson didn't target his tight ends once in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. It was the first time in his career he didn't target a tight end in a game. The Seahawks' receivers weren't all that great, either.
What did Seattle give up? Center Max Unger and the 31st pick in the 2015 draft. New Orleans also sent a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks. The Saints now hold the No. 13 and No. 31 picks in the 2015 draft.
Saints Backed Into Corner
This is basically a salary dump as New Orleans had one of the worst cap situations in the NFL. Graham signed a four-year contract worth $40 million to stay with the Saints last summer after a lengthy battle as to whether he should be paid as a tight end or wide receiver. The contract was a record contract for the position. Graham was set to make $11 million in salary and bonuses in 2015, including a $5 million roster bonus that the Saints could have converted into a signing bonus to provide salary cap relief. Unger will count $4.5 million against the Saints 2015 cap, and while the Seahawks will be responsible for Graham's roster bonus, the Saints must account for the remaining $9 million of his signing bonus.
Unger, who presumably will take over the starting role, will be the Saints third starting center in three seasons. Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill are the top two options at tight end for now. Without Graham, there's no question Brees will rely heavily on the receiving corps of Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills.
It's the third move in what seems to be another Saints locker room makeover. Pierre Thomas and Curtis Lofton have also been released. Free agent running back Mark Ingram isn't expected to return. The Saints were mostly quiet in the hours leading up to free agency.
New Orleans is now +3500 on Sportsbook.ag to win the Super Bowl.
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