INDIANAPOLIS – A little less than a year ago, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made the first unrestricted free-agent splash of his career by making tight end Jimmy Graham the highest-paid player at his position with a three-year, $30 million deal.
During his session in front of the national media Wednesday at the Indianapolis Convention Center, Gutekunst was asked about Graham’s performance in 2018 — and indicated that the 32-year-old will be back in the fold for first-year head coach Matt LaFleur.
“Jimmy had a productive year for us last year,” Gutekunst said. “Was really, really proud of him. He fought through a lot of things just to be out there. Guys who have played as long as he has don’t have to do that. His professionalism was on display each and every day, and I look forward to seeing what he can do for us this year.”
Last season Graham would miss practices due to a knee issue and played the final six games of the season with a broken thumb. He finished the year with 55 catches for 636 yards (11.6 avg.) and two touchdowns. They were his lowest reception and touchdown totals since 2015, his first year in Seattle.
“Obviously, he played through a lot of stuff. Like I said, he was a pro through it,” Gutekunst said. “That was impressive to me. Hopefully, he can be a little bit healthier going in through the year. Certainly, that’s always a part of production.”
Graham is due a $5 million roster bonus March 15, the third day of the new league year.
The Packers are facing another deadline of sorts when it comes to Nick Perry, who is due a $4.8 million roster bonus March 15. The oft-injured outside linebacker could be a candidate to be cut before then, though Gutekunst said the team doesn’t have to release him to free up cap space to accomplish his free-agency goals in 2019.
“This week is really important, not only for the draft, but there’s obviously a lot of free-agency questions that are going on, too, conversations, and as that information comes and we sit down, those first 10 days after we get back from the combine, you start to see how the puzzle can be shaped and what you can and can’t do, and at that point we’ll make those decisions,” Gutekunst said.
“Nick’s struggled through some injuries. It’s been unfortunate. When he’s been out there, he’s been a good player for us. We’ll make those decisions as they come.”
Status of Cobb, Matthews uncertain
Gutekunst also addressed the futures of the two highest-profile free agents-to-be Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews by saying re-signing them (or not) has been discussed, but the club is still working through that decision-making process.
In a follow-up interview, Gutekunst more firmly stated that the organization has not made the decision to move on from either player as of yet.
“To be quite frank, it’s really just about information gathering,” Gutekunst said. “To kind of see where their markets are going to be at ... obviously they’re free agents coming up here, seeing where that’s going to be, and does that fit what we’re trying to do as a football team. As that information comes in, me and Matt will sit down and make decisions how we want to go forward. I’ve always felt that, it’s unfair to your football team to make those decisions before you have all the information, so that’s where we’re at.
Gutekunst acknowledged that the information-gathering process will speed up as the free-agency market crystallizes with less than two weeks to go before the legal tampering window opens March 11.
“Usually by the end of this week or into the next week after, you start to have an idea,” he said. “Again, it’s unpredictable, but I think it’s one of those things that we’ll gauge it as it goes. If it makes sense for our football team to bring those guys back, we will. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t."