Packers tight end Jimmy Graham bids farewell after two seasons in Green Bay

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers' search for a tight end who can be a consistent contributor to their passing attack continues.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, one of the first free-agent signings by Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst after he replaced Ted Thompson in 2018, will be released Thursday, ESPN reported.

Graham thanked Packers fans for their support in a tweet Wednesday:

"The last 2 years have certainly been interesting! A lot of memories, friendships and humbling moments that I will carry with me into the next opportunity. Thank you for the support during our exciting run this year toward that ever so elusive ring."

The move comes as no surprise after two seasons in which Graham was a far cry from being the playmaker he was in New Orleans and (to a lesser extent) Seattle.

His departure saves the Packers $8 million on their salary cap for 2020. The Packers will carry about $3.6 million in dead money with the release, however.

Graham had 38 receptions for 447 yards in 2019, both totals being his lowest since his rookie season of 2010. He caught three touchdown passes, including one in a season-opening 10-3 win at Chicago.

Graham, 33, took to Twitter on Jan. 20 to thank fans for "sticking by me for 10 years." The tweet prompted online speculation that Graham was planning to call it a career. Instead, the Packers made the move to end his brief two-year run in Green Bay.

Graham agreed to a three-year contract with the Packers in March of 2018 worth $30 million, with $11 million guaranteed upon signing. 

Jan 19, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In his final game with the Packers, Graham caught four passes for 59 yards (one a 42-yard grab that set up a touchdown) in Green Bay's 37-20 loss in the NFC championship to the San Francisco 49ers.

After an uneven first season in Green Bay (55 catches for 636 yards and two touchdowns), Graham was brought back for the 2019 season after being paid a $5 million roster bonus in March.

His two seasons were marred by a variety of physical issues, though he didn't miss any games. In 2019 he dislocated a finger in training camp and routinely had an ice pack on his right knee between series on the sideline.

In 2018 Graham played through a broken thumb for the final six games of the season and his practice time was managed because of a knee issue.

Graham starred with the Saints (386 catches for 4,752 yards, 12.3 average, 51 TDs in five seasons) and was traded to the Seahawks before the 2015 season. After an injury-marred first year in Seattle, Graham caught 65 passes for 923 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, when he was 30 years old. He had 57 catches for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017.

In two seasons with the Packers, Graham had only five touchdown catches.

The Packers signed Graham after striking out with free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett, who was signed in 2017 when Green Bay was unable to work out a deal to retain free-agent tight end Jared Cook. Bennett was released midway through his only season in Green Bay.

Graham's departure leaves the Packers with three tight ends on their roster: pending free agent Marcedes Lewis (who has said he hopes to return), second-year veteran Robert Tonyan and 2019 third-round draft pick Jace Sternberger.

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