The first move the Chicago Bears made in the 2020 NFL free agency was to sign tight end Jimmy Graham. The Green Bay Packers had just released him about a week prior to the start of the new year. Even though any team could sign him prior to the new year, no team appeared to go after him. Therefore, it was a surprise that the Bears signed him so early.
The Bears signed Graham on a two-year, $16 million deal. Of that, he has $9 million in guaranteed money. Many felt it was too much money for a 33-year-old tight end on the tail end of his career. The argument is if the Bears waited they would have ended up paying less for him.
Well, Graham disagrees.
While many people feel Graham is an injury risk, that opinion is difficult to understand. Yes, he suffered a devastating knee injury in 2015, but he returned and missed no games in the past four seasons (64 straight games). Overall, he only missed six games due to injury and five of them came in 2015.
Graham says his knee is as good as it has been for the past four or five seasons. Being cut by the Packers lit a fire in him, he says.
It was the first time I lost my job. And I work extremely hard. I’ve sacrificed everything for this game. I’ve given it everything I have, and obviously to go through that, it was difficult… But for me, it’s lit a fire.
In 2019, Graham had 38 catches for 447 yards, the lowest total since his rookie season. Despite that, he came up big in the playoffs. He had 7 catches for 108 yards, making big catches to extend critical drives. Now he is ready to prove the doubters wrong and to show that the Bears were right to have faith in him.
Graham’s 2019 receiving yards were more than the entire Chicago Bears tight ends unit combined (395 yards). No Bears tight end even reached 100 yards. Also, the entire unit had two touchdowns and Graham by himself had three.
A motivated Graham would give the Bears a big improvement at tight end. If the team keeps Trey Burton and he stays healthy, Chicago’s tight ends unit can go from being a weak point to being a strong one.
Graham might just be a one and done signing. Expect the Bears to draft a tight end and groom him to be the starter in 2021. If Burton is still on the roster, the Bears could cut him and save $7.1 million in cap space. That means if they don’t trade him now he still won’t be on the roster in 2021. With the draft prospect ready to take over, Graham might still be on the roster as a backup or the Bears could part ways with him and save $7 million. That’s a saving of $14.1 million.
It’ll be nice to see how well Graham plays. He wants to show he has something left in the tank. If the offense gets the help it needs from his play, we’ll see plenty more points scored and hopefully more wins. He’s desperate to perform well and the Chicago Bears fans are desperate to see him perform well.