After several weeks of speculation and reporting around the subject, it appears that the Green Bay Packers have made their decision. The Packers are indeed releasing tight end Jimmy Graham, with the transaction expected to become official on Thursday.
The report comes from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who broke the news on Wednesday evening. Graham’s release will make him a street free agent and able to sign with a new team at any time after the transaction is finalized.
This move is an acknowledgement by Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst that his first big free agent signing was a bust. Graham signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Packers in 2018, a deal that contained $11 million in signing bonus money. His biggest salary cap hit came in 2019, when he had the highest cap hit of any tight end in the NFL at $12.67 million. By releasing him now, the Packers will carry a $3.67 million dead money hit on the books for 2020, but they free up $8 million in cap space for the upcoming season.
Graham’s first season was objectively more successful than his second, at least in terms of counting stats. He caught 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns in 2018, compared to just 38, 447, and three last fall. Still, his yards per reception and catch rate were actually slightly increased in 2019 over the prior year, with a drop in snap count responsible for at least part of the reduced workload.
Graham, classy as always, issued a statement on Twitter thanking Packers fans for the past two years:
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. ✌ pic.twitter.com/7tQf7eQtzC— Jimmy Graham (@TheJimmyGraham) March 11, 2020
At 33 years old, Graham probably still has the ability to help an NFL team in some way. But the Packers determined, as fans and sources around the league expected, that the $8 million he would cost this year was more than the value he would bring to the team.