To say that Jimmy Graham has been successful with the New Orleans Saints would be a huge understatement. With the possible exception of Rob Gronkowski, no tight end (yes, he’s a tight end) has meant more to an offense, and few players have revolutionized their position quite like Graham. But if he thinks he can replicate that success with a different team, he’s mistaken.
Much of Graham’s dominance stems from the Saints’ specific offensive scheme and from playing with a prolific quarterback, Drew Brees. There are few other offenses that utilize the tight end as much as the Saints and even fewer use a system that would take full advantage of Graham’s mix of athleticism and physicality. In any other offense, Graham could still be successful, but it is unlikely that he could continue to put up his current numbers.
In New Orleans, Graham has one of the greatest quarterbacks of the era throwing him the ball. With almost any other quarterback, Graham’s production would drop off considerably. Statistician Nate Silver predicts that Graham’s average numbers would likely fall from 90 catches, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns down to about 76 catches, 917 yards and seven touchdowns per season. Brees certainly doesn’t want to lose a weapon like Graham, and, if Graham is wise, he’ll do whatever it takes to stay with the team.
Surely there will be some bad blood between the Saints and Graham, but both sides will definitely try to put that behind them and attempt to work out a long-term deal. Despite the bad feelings, the best case scenario for both sides is for Graham to stay in New Orleans for as long as he can.