GREEN BAY, Wis. – The leader in the clubhouse for the craziest free-agent deal goes to the Chicago Bears, who agreed on a two-year, $16 million contract with Jimmy Graham.
According to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, who broke the news, the deal includes $9 million guaranteed.
The Packers released Graham last week rather than pay him the final year of a three-year, $30 million contract. In terms of average salary, that $10 million made him the most-expensive tight end in the NFL last season. What was the return on investment?
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Graham finished fourth on the team in receptions, catching 38-of-60 passes (63.3 percent) for 447 yards (11.8 average) and three touchdowns. He had six games of 40-plus receiving yards but four games with less than 10 yards. He did deliver three key catches in the playoff victory against Seattle. His 42-yard catch in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco is why he was signed as a free agent in 2018. It only took until his 34th game to deliver it, though.
According to Pro Football Focus, 39 tight ends were targeted at least 32 times in regular-season play. Graham ranked 31st in catch percentage, 31st in drop percentage (three drops; 7.3 percent) and 29th in yards per target (1.11). Two-dozen tight ends were targeted at least five times on passes 20-plus yards downfield. Graham caught 2-of-10; that 20.0 percent tying for 20th in that group.
Whatever Graham showed the Bears, it wasn’t in their head-to-head matchups in 2019. Graham caught 3-of-6 passes for 30 yards and one touchdown in Week 1 and 1-of-2 passes for 0 yards in Week 15.
Before the Graham contract, the early leader for most bizarre contract was earned by Detroit, with the Lions agreeing to a five-year, $50 million contract with Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Vaitai was signed to replace Rick Wagner, who landed in Green Bay. Vaitai has 20 starts in four seasons, including three in 2019. He allowed two sacks. Had he met the 50 percent playing time threshold we’ve been using, he would have ranked 44th out of 57 offensive tackles in PFF’s pass-protection metric. Even with the limited playing time (477 snaps), he was slapped with four holding penalties.