Throughout the start of the 2020 offseason and even dating well back into 2019, fans of the Green Bay Packers have had a clear expectation of general manager Brian Gutekunst: that he would release tight end Jimmy Graham.
The move makes sense in every business sense, after all. Graham was the highest-paid tight end in the NFL last season in terms of his salary cap number, and his level of play was nowhere near that value. With that combined with the fact that the Packers could save $8 million in salary cap space for 2020 by releasing him this offseason, the consensus has been that it is a matter of when, not if, Graham receives his walking papers.
Now sources around the NFL are telling media members that this is their expectation as well. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted out a report of just that on Wednesday afternoon:
One potential play-maker hitting the market: #Packers TE Jimmy Graham is not expected back in Green Bay, sources say. The move with the 33-year old former free agent signing is noteable, though not a surprise for anyone involved.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2020
Note the wording of his tweet, however: a source expects Graham not to return to the Packers for 2020. This does not indicate that a release is necessarily imminent, nor that Gutekunst and company have even made the final decision yet. Thus, this news remains in the speculation category for the time being.
The Packers have a great deal of flexibility on the timing of a potential Graham release as well. He has no roster bonus due on a specific date like he did last year, with most of his 2020 contract tied up in his base salary. Effectively, the Packers could release him any time before the start of spring workouts and owe him nothing for this season, getting the full $8 million in cap savings.
It would probably be an unfriendly move to Graham to wait that long to release him, however, as he and his agent would likely prefer to get a chance to play the free agent market as early as possible to maximize his earning potential this offseason. As such, expect the release to come in the next few weeks, perhaps around the start of the league year, instead of in April.
For now, Graham remains a member of the Green Bay Packers. That much has not changed. But this is still a clear sign that individuals within the NFL expect the same that Packers fans do: that the Packers will move on from Graham this offseason.