Before we start, I know some people will say there is zero chance Jimmy Graham will be allowed to reach free agency. Well, things that allegedly are never supposed to happen do happen all the time in the NFL. Until Graham signs a contract with the Saints for 2014, there remains a chance albeit small he will be available.
Jimmy Graham only played one year of college football at Miami. He spent most of his college career playing basketball. That one year of football was enough to convince the Saints to invest a 2010 third round pick in him. He put up pedestrian rookie numbers before breaking out in his second year. In the three year stretch between 2011 and 2013, he never had less than 85 catches, 982 yards, or 9 touchdowns. He's also durable, only having missed two games in four years.
When we talk about Graham, don't think of him as a tight end. In today's NFL, traditional position designations are going out the window. Graham is a receiver and a freakish one. He's a number one receiver who is coming off an 86 catch, 1,215 yard, 16 touchdown season. He's a 6'7" 265 pound force with 4.5 speed. Because of these attributes, you can move him all over the place to create mismatches, unlike your traditional number one receiver. Graham can split wide. He can play in the slot. He can also line up in-line. As former Jets coach Herman Edwards might say, you can call him 7-11 because he's always open. His size and incredible leaping ability allow him to win contested balls at an incredible rate. He is the ultimate safety blanket for a quarterback.
Because of these things, I will concede it is unlikely Graham will be available. Nothing is impossible, which is why we are writing this, but Graham really should be New Orleans' top priority. They should do what it takes.
If for some reason Graham does become available, I think the Jets should back up a truck of money and dump it at Graham's doorstep. I wouldn't hesitate to match the 6 years and $53 million with $16 million guaranteed the Patriots gave Rob Grownkowski. I wouldn't even hesitate to give him more. Grownkowski is a great blocker. Graham is not, but Jimmy is a game-changing offensive weapon. He makes you gameplan around him and can still destroy you even if you do. I am not a big fan of paying big dollars in free agency generally. Usually good players get paid like they are great. This is a great player.