FA Expectancy – Jimmy Graham

Updated: July 4th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Jimmy Graham – TE – Green Bay Packers

When Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers in March there was plenty of excitement for owners that held his services. He was moving to an offense that features one of the best quarterbacks ever, Aaron Rodgers, and with the departure of Jordy Nelson, ARod would be looking for a new favorite red zone target. Davante Adams has emerged as a talented receiver but after Randall Cobb, who hasn’t done much since his breakout 2014 campaign, there are not many names that would warrant consideration for consistent targets. This must be a perfect match for Jimmy Graham to reclaim his TE1 title; or is it?

Since 2009 the Green Bay tight end has had a significantly reduced role in terms of target share and usage. The last two years Green Bay TEs have shrunk down to 15.8% and 10% of total targets and 8.2% and 6.2% for the team’s TE1 individual target share. The ceiling at this point may be similar to Richard Rodgers’ 2015 season where despite tight ends only being targets 18%, Rodgers managed to hold a 14.8% individual target share with 85 targets. This would have been good for a low-end TE1 target share in fantasy last season.

Many would be quick to point out that Graham is a far superior talent to Richard Rodgers and should, therefore, be able to outproduce his greatest statistics. Well, if we look back to the earlier career of Aaron Rodgers when he had the talented Jermichael Finley at tight end the stats are surprisingly not much different. In 2011 and 2012 Finley had 92 targets and 87 targets for a team target share of 16.7% and 15.6% respectively. This was also before every NFL team was running more 11 personnel (3WR, 1TE, 1RB) than any other type of formation so if a blocking TE is needed for running plays don’t expect to see Graham on the field. If Green Bay is creative with their schemes, they should find ways to use Graham as the third receiver and instead have Mercedes Lewis, who was also acquired, be the more traditional TE in 11 personnel formation. We will see though.

All in all, it is still likely that Graham will be a strong play at the weak tight end slot in fantasy. It should not be expected, however, that he would return anywhere close to his wide receiver level of production that he had with Drew Brees in New Orleans like some seem to think. If he is available in your auction this year look for a two year deal between $7-10MM annually. This way if he is productive in Green Bay you have him at about the highest TE Franchise Tag anyways without having to use your tag this season. If he has an expiring contract this year I would only be looking to resign him if either his contract is another one year deal or his annual value is low enough that if he doesn’t work out/retires in 2019 and beyond his cap space would not be a huge detriment. Without know his statistics through the first four weeks of this season I would suggest in the range of either $8MM/1year or $18MM/3year as a respectable contract for resigning Graham this season.

Seattle Seahawks Identity Problem

Fans of football have often reflected on the Seahawks trading for Jimmy Graham in 2015 as a knee-jerk reaction to the famed interception that cost them a second consecutive the season prior. The logic behind it sort of makes sense. If they had a big receiver that could they could trust in the end zone to “climb the ladder” for a jump ball instead of trying to throw inside to a smaller receiver they would have been champions twice over. They decided to trade away a key offensive line piece, center Max Unger, to try and solve this issue but in return ended up losing their team identity of being aggressive with their run game and defense. They haven’t looked the same since that Super Bowl 49 loss.

With Graham now gone and most of their defensive superstars either gone or aging it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks view their best strategy to win moving forward. They brought in Brandon Marshall to see if he still has some game left in him but at 34 and coming off multiple lower body surgeries it’s not even a guarantee that he makes the roster let alone has any fantasy value. The team drafted rookie running back Rashaad Penny in the first round which was a surprising move to many. This may indicate that the team wants to return to a game-controlling, run-first offense. Without much improvement on the offensive line, however, this may be difficult to accomplish so expectations for Penny should be kept at an RB3-4 max until we see how he will be utilized in both the passing game and carries per game. Ultimately, it comes down to how effective Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin can be and those three players (Wilson, Baldwin, and Penny) are the only players to expect game-to-game consistency in fantasy this season. Tyler Lockett does have upside but he hasn’t looked as explosive since his leg injury in 2016. He will have great games but be a ghost for more than one would feel comfortable as their third or fourth option at receiver.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @NickAndrews_RSO.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Free Agent Frenzy

Updated: April 21st 2015

Last week I opened up our offseason strategy series with Top 5 Offseason Questions, which hopefully you’ve read by now. It took a high level look into how you can best assess your Reality Sports Online team as the league offseason is now underway. After one of the craziest weeks of free agency ever and NFL General Managers acting like fantasy football owners at the trading deadline, moving star players around like they were football cards, I figure we should analyze the potential fantasy impact of new landscapes for key fantasy players and other players in those offenses.

I won’t get into players who stayed with their current teams, because we are fairly familiar with what type of production you can expect in those landscapes, although I’m sure many Randall Cobb owners are among the happiest during the free agent period based on him staying with the Packers very productive offense.

1) Jimmy Graham Gets Traded to Seahawks

Of all the days I ended up being away from Twitter for a few hours, I picked a day where NFL GM’s were acting like people selling Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice on the trading floor in Trading Places. I think at one point the internet may have broken when it was announced that the Seattle Seahawks traded Max Unger and the 31st pick overall to the New Orleans Saints for Jimmy Graham and a 4th round pick. The move helps the Saints cap wise as Graham was on a 4-year, $40 million contract signed in 2014 , but leaves a big void by virtue of getting rid of Drew Brees‘ biggest and best target, especially in the red zone.

Seahawks Impact: The Seahawks have been one of the most run heavy teams in the NFL the past three years. That doesn’t figure to change, although having Graham will certainly change the matchup possibilities. Seattle was clamoring for a red zone threat who could win balls in the end zone and in traffic. Graham is that guy, but not someone who is going to cut into Marshawn Lynch’s touchdowns much (maybe Russell Wilson’s rushing touchdowns a bit). Expect the touchdown totals to be down around 8-10 per year and 1,000 yards receiving to be a stretch. I’d move Graham down into a tight end tier with Greg Olsen and a few others. From an RSO standpoint, his average contract of 2.7 years and $57.5 million (average of $21.3 million) is probably about $10.0 million more than you’d want to be spending in the Free Agency Auction Room if he was a free agent in your league. If you can move him and get appropriate value, it may be worth it.

The biggest impact is that this should significantly propel Wilson as a passer. I’d move him into Top 5 quarterback status, passing Drew Brees on the way by virtue of the subtraction of Graham. The Graham acquisition really opens up the middle of the field on intermediate routes with solid depth where the Seahawks like to operate, and also takes the burden off of Lynch a bit. At the end of the day, the Seahawks are still a run first team, but Graham can create big matchup problems (especially in division as teams like the Cardinals don’t perform well versus the position), and this could open up even more zone-read for Wilson. I’m thinking his passing numbers will increase and you may see his first 4,000 passing yard season and his passing touchdowns will be up at the expense of his rushing touchdowns, which one could argue his 2014 total of six rushing touchdowns are headed for statistical regression anyways. If you own Wilson at his average contract of 2.2 years and $16.3 million (average of $7.5 million), you should be getting a great value this year and can improve the other aspects of your team by virtue of having a potential Top 5 quarterback on an amazing contract.  If you are prospecting on any quarterbacks this offseason, I’d have to imagine Wilson would be at the top of your list.

Saints Impact: On the flip side, the Saints re-signing Mark Ingram to a 4 year, $16.0 million deal with $7.6 million guaranteed and making this trade points to them being more of a running team going forward (also added C.J. Spiller)  especially with Unger as their new center. Based on age and losing Graham and Pierre Thomas essentially for cap reasons, I would downgrade Brees to between the 5-7 range among quarterbacks because losing 11.5 touchdowns a year out of Graham is tough to replace and now the team has traded Kenny Stills, there best vertical threat as well. Brees also showed a penchant for turning the ball over last season as well. If you have him and can trade him on name reputation, especially carrying a high-salary deal like the 2.2 years and $43.6 million (average of $19.9 million) deal, I think you would be wise to if you get value you are excited about. Do this especially if lots of quarterbacks figure to be free agents in your league this year as I’m sure you’d rather have Tony Romo for half the price of Brees. I obviously would upgrade Ingram on the Graham deal, but not crazily, in spite of him being a really efficient running back in 2014, he does have a long injury history.

The player I like to benefit most from the Graham trade is second year wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Look for Cooks to move all around in different formations and get a good share of the looks that were headed to Graham and Thomas. It is only a matter of time before Cooks becomes the Cobb of the Saints and if you are in a league where you get fantasy points for returns, he’ll add even more value for you. You probably nabbed him in last year’s rookie draft, as his average deal is 3.3 years and $15.1 million ($4.6 million average). Cooks’ value should be through the roof and I’d hold onto him unless you get a king’s ransom for him.

2) Buffalo Likes Its Sauce Shady Style and Eagles Poach Murray

We all knew that Chip Kelly wants to build his own team. He proved that last year by moving on from DeSean Jackson and cutting several players this offseason. However, we had no clue he’d be trading his star running back Lesean McCoy like two kids trading snack packs in their lunches for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Bills Impact: Coach Rex Ryan gets a bell-cow for his beloved run game. The team clearly valued McCoy by giving him a new deal for 5 years and $40 million with $26.1m guaranteed after the trade. The 26 year old running back has plenty of tread left on his tires, but is coming off a year where his numbers were significantly down, especially in the receiving game. McCoy has a tendency to not be patient and hit the right holes sometimes which limited him in 2014. That said, he still had over 1,300 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns in a down year. Expect Buffalo to run a-plenty in 2015, including using veteran Fred Jackson as well. I think Jackson will still be a big factor in the receiving game. McCoy’s value was obviously higher as an Eagle (2.6 years and $64.7 million, or $25.2 million average). If you can trade him and use the cap space you got to get a younger player with upside, it may be worthwhile and I certainly wouldn’t give him more than $15.0 million a year on a free agent deal, especially with a quarterback like Matt Cassel at the helm.

Eagles Impact: The team moved a high dollar cap contract and thought it was getting a replacement for McCoy in veteran Frank Gore, who ultimately ended up signing with the Indianapolis Colts. The Eagles offense is a bit in flux because it is uncertain whether Mark Sanchez or newly acquired Sam Bradford will be their quarterback and who he will throw to besides Jordan Matthews, who is someone I love this year.

However, this all changed when DeMarco Murray signed with the Eagles on a 5 year, $42.0 million deal with $21.0 million guaranteed on Thursday, shocking the football world, by not only leaving the Cowboys, but going to their division rival in the process. Murray now joins good friend and ex-college roommate Bradford in Philly. Murray had a ton of carries last year and the Eagles have their third down back solution already. I fail to see how but you pay his RSO 2.0 year, $27.0 million contract with a $13.6m annual average in such a crowded backfield, unless trader Chip has not finished making moves yet.

I’d be more on board with the move obviously if the Murray signing meant Ryan Mathews did not sign with the Eagles, however that’s a moot point now. Mathews signing with the Eagles is a better NFL move than a fantasy football one at 3 years, $11.5 million with $5.0 million guaranteed. While he’s been injury and fumble prone to say the least, Mathews also averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2013 and 4.5 yards per carry in limited 2014 action. Mathews’ average RSO deal reflects his injury history at 1.6 years and $11.1 million ($7.2 million average), which is a lot of money for a backup to Murray.

The big question is what Dallas now does to replace Murray, and it seems like based on cost and availability the team should look to the first round of the NFL Draft to nab their bell-cow. Todd Gurley is personally my favorite running back in the draft by a wide margin (think Lynch with more speed) and worth the injury wait and Melvin Gordon would look nice in the Big D as well.

3) Orange Julius Changes His Color

One can’t help but think that if Julius Thomas was writing thank you notes after getting a big new job in Jacksonville, the first one would be to Peyton Manning for turning him into a touchdown machine the past two years. Thomas cashed in on his 24 touchdowns in 27 games by signing a huge 5 year, $46.0 million deal with $24.0 million guaranteed.

Jaguars Impact: I like giving second year quarterback Blake Bortles a security blanket in the red zone. The team just has to get their first and it would be naive to think that Thomas will come close to double digit touchdowns in Jacksonsville as the pass-catching tight-end. He has great hands, but needs to avoid persistent ankle injuries to live up to the value of his deal. Thomas’ 1. 8 years and $25.4 million ($13.9 million average) should be cut in half or by two-thirds for being in the Jaguars offense relative to the Broncos offense. His volume should increase, but the value of his touchdowns in Denver will be really hard to replicate in Jacksonville, at least the next two years, especially if he can’t stay healthy.

Broncos Impact: Many of Manning’s tight-ends have been the product of his confidence in them and the system. Tight end Virgil Green is a super-cheap sleeper option in your auction. He’s noted as a good blocker as well, which should keep him on the field and in Manning’s good graces. Owen Daniels was a sneaky signing (3 years, $12.0 million) for the Broncos who had success under Gary Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore. I imagine that will be even more pronounced with Manning and if you are in a league where someone kept him (average deal was 1.0 year for $1.1 million), I really like Daniels as a buy-low and ride high guy.

4) The Colts Get Some Vets

It became clear in the playoffs that the Indianapolis Colts were on the brink of becoming a contender for the AFC Championship every year. Improving on offense was a priority, especially at running back. The Colts did one better. Not only did they pry Gore away from the Eagles to replace a horrid Trent Richardson in the backfield, but they also signed wide receivers Andre Johnson and Duron Carter to provide two huge targets for all-world quarterback Andrew Luck to throw to in addition to T.Y. Hilton, while the team cut veteran Reggie Wayne.

Colts Impact: These veteran signings increase the stock of Luck the most and signing Todd Herremans on the offensive line should be big too. He’d be a top three QB option anyways, but you have to salivate at Johnson getting two shots a year at the Texans as well. Johnson never has been a great red zone receiver (last season with 8 or more touchdowns was 2010), but he can win in the middle more than Wayne can at this point and had 85 receptions and almost 1,000 yards in a down year with a terrible quarterback situation last year. Carter, the son of Hall of Famer Cris Carter, is a project, but provides a huge 6’5″ target for Luck, along with Donte Moncrief, who showed some flashes in an inconsistent rookie season. Johnson’s $9.6 million average on a 1.5 average deal length is more than I’d pay at this point, but it will be interesting to see how he extends his career with Luck.

The Gore signing is better from an NFL perspective than a fantasy one. I think he could score 8-10 touchdowns if given the lead-back role, but at his age, you aren’t counting on him for a multi-year deal or either trading him or trading for him.

5) Jeremy Maclin’s Homecoming

Once Cobb announced early in free agency that he’d return to the Packers, Jeremy Maclin became the prized piece for free agent wide receivers. In a move that probably shocked nobody, Maclin agreed to a 5 year, $55.0 million deal with $22.5 million guaranteed with his former coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. For Maclin it is a homecoming to rejoin Reid and because the St. Louis native went to the University of Missouri. Maclin figures to bolster a receiving corps that had zero wide receiver touchdowns in 2014, compared to Maclin’s 10 touchdowns.

Chiefs Impact: Tough to say because quarterback Alex Smith is a known dinker and dunker. With Travis Kelce emerging at the tight end position, the signing of Maclin was a necessary move, even at high dollars for a receiver that only has cracked 1,000 receiving yards last year (85 receptions for 1,318 yards) and already missed the 2013 season with a torn ACL. Maclin’s injury and free agent status seem to be priced into his 2014 contract values from RSO auctions as his average deal is for 1.7 years and $7.0 million, or an average of $4.2 million. If you own a deal like that, you stick as Maclin should be the focal point of the Chiefs passing game. If you believe Maclin will still be a 1,000 yard and 8 touchdown guy for the Chiefs, you should pursue offseason deals for him as he’s very familiar with Reid’s offense and is a pro’s pro.

6) Other Notes

I think Nick Foles can be a solid starter in St. Louis and love the idea of two teams swapping potential starting quarterbacks in a fantasy-football like deal, but I’m not sure I’m thrilled about paying him $7.8 million annually. Bradford, who he got traded for has too long a history of injuries and inability to hit on big plays for my liking, so I’m staying away from him. Shane Vereen signing with the Giants benefits nobody in the backfield, but should be a significant upgrade for Eli Manning as a pass-catching running back. I’m not afraid to call Eli a sleeper with the weapons he has and I’d gladly pay his 1.2 year contract for $2.8 million ($2.4 million average) even in a backup capacity. The Ndamukong Suh signing in Miami figures to give the team a monstrous front four, but I still think the Miami defense is no better than a fringe top-ten option. I like the potential impact Trent Cole can have on the Indy defense.

That’s all for now, folks, but we’ll continue this throughout the offseason. You can find me on Twitter @mattgoody2

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Defense Wins Championships

Updated: February 17th 2014

I live a tortured sports existence, which makes it hard for someone who is so passionate about sports. So if you had to guess, you’d guess I’m from A) Philly, B) Buffalo, or, C) Cleveland. If you picked C) Cleveland, you’d be correct. I’ve seen it all and witnessed a franchise so incompetent that one of my RSO league mates has a team name: The Death Blow: Cleveland’s Only Hope for a Title! (Coincidentally, he won the inaugural season of our 12-team RSO league and has Josh Gordon for another two years at a ridiculously good contract.)

Alas, there was no championship parade for The Death Blow or for other RSO league winners. However, in the city in which I currently reside, Seattle, WA, the Seahawks just won the Super Bowl and the sense of pride in this city is of Richard Sherman-esque proportions.

So when the team announced the parade for this past Wednesday, there was no way that my 3.5 year old son and I were missing this “life experience.” This is the only NFL city he has lived in and the Seahawks are definitely his team and while I wouldn’t dream of letting him go to an NFL game anytime soon (for a variety of reasons), you never know when a city will get another championship (in Cleveland’s case, probably never).

As a result, we braved cold temps (nothing like the Polar Vortex out East) and a gridlocked city that closely resembled Washington D.C. in “Live Free or Die Hard.” The buses were full and if it weren’t for a stranger whose mom came and drove us downtown (Seattle folk are just outwardly kind sometimes), we wouldn’t have even made it.

We waited for almost two hours for the parade to make it to us and that is a tall task with a young one. But when Marshawn Lynch came around the corner throwing Skittles, the people around me erupted and my son was going crazy. The vehicles in the motorcade went through the positions-Russell Wilson and the Quarterbacks, the Wide Receivers (I’m very high on Percy Harvin for fantasy next year), and ultimately to the “Legion of Boom”— the uber-confident defense that stymied the historic Broncos offense in the Super Bowl.

Say what you will about the confidence of the Legion of Boom but they have a Reggie Miller like way of talking the talk and walking the walk. Which gets me to my main point: I’m using my RSO Franchise Tag for 2014 on the Seahawks DST.

I know that in fantasy football, defenses fluctuate in fantasy points scored on a yearly basis and the Chiefs went off in the regular season and were exposed in the playoffs. Frankly, I don’t see that happening with the Seahawks for many reasons. First, they have 8 home games in the toughest place to play in NFL History-700,000 fans at a parade and another 100,000 in two stadiums reinforced the power of the 12th Man on Wednesday. If they can make Peyton Manning have happy feet, imagine what they can do to other QB’s, and we haven’t even talked about the weather at these games which is usually wet and windy. While their home trek includes Tony Romo, Peyton again, the NFC West, and Aaron Rodgers, they are at the point fantasy-wise where they are the only no-brainer DST to start regardless of matchup. Heck, you should consider benching your Larry Fitzgerald type WR’s and Colin Kaepernick type QB’s against them too. And to quote another Sherman (American Pie), “Confidence is high.” You just don’t see this group letting up right now, even if a piece or two up front may change.

In RSO your league dynamics, scoring system, and how fellow owners spend their money may differ from the league I’m in, but if your league is anything like mine where $30M/year contracts abound for RB’s and WR’s, DST is where the average salary for using the franchise tag is actually something worth considering. For me, that will be probably be in the $3M range for 2014 for production that rivals a Top 10 RB or WR and enables you to go after the Alshon Jefferys of this year’s FA crop in the Free Agency Auction. Sign me up – just not for another parade if the Seahawks repeat next year.

Editor’s Note: Matt Goodwin was a first-time RSO user this season, and we thank him for sharing his unforgettable Super Bowl parade experience in Seattle as well as his franchise tag advice. If you want to follow him on Twitter, his handle is @mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Papson