GREEN BAY – The Packers have found their newest offensive weapon in the form of five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.
A veteran of nine NFL seasons, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham has caught 556 passes for 6,800 yards and 59 touchdowns since breaking into the league as a third-round pick with the New Orleans Saints in 2010.
Graham, 31, became the Saints’ all-time receiving leader before being traded to Seattle in 2015. Graham also claimed the Seahawks’ franchise record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with 18.
Here are five things to know about the Packers’ new tight end:
1. Graham has overcome a lot
A native of Goldsboro, N.C., Graham endured a difficult upbringing and was placed in a group home at 11 years old. With help from a church youth counselor, Becky Vinson, who became his foster parent, Graham improved his grades during high school and eventually earned a basketball scholarship to play at the University of Miami (Fla.). Graham later was the Saints’ 2011 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, recognizing players who have overcome adversity.
2. He played only one season at tight end in college
Graham played basketball during his first four years at Miami. He averaged 4.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and shot 50.8 percent from the field in 120 collegiate games with 40 starts. After graduating with degrees in marketing and management, Graham opted to enroll as a graduate student and joined the Hurricanes’ football team. He caught 17 passes for 215 yards and five touchdowns before wowing scouts with a 4.56 second-time in the 40-yard dash and 38½-inch vertical jump at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine.
3. Graham had a record-setting run with the Saints
Seen as one of the rawest prospects in the 2010 NFL Draft, Graham became a household name when he led the league in receiving with 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns during his second season with the Saints. Along with New England’s Rob Gronkowski, Graham is one of only two tight ends in NFL history to record multiple seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and more than 10 touchdowns. He also was the first tight end in NFL history to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Month in September 2013 after catching 27 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns.
4. He spent three seasons in Seattle
Jimmy Graham has registered 556 receptions for 6,800 yards (12.2 avg.) and 69 touchdowns (No. 4 in NFL history among tight ends). Photos by AP.
The Saints traded Graham to the Seahawks in March 2015 for center Max Unger and a first-round pick. Although a season-ending knee injury caused Graham to miss his first extended time due to injury in 2015, he bounced back in 2016 with 65 catches for 923 yards and six TDs. This past season marked the fourth time in Graham’s eight NFL seasons he caught at least 10 touchdown passes in a season on his way to a fifth Pro Bowl appearance.
5. Graham gives the Packers positional versatility
Graham is the quintessential hybrid player. He’s spent a majority of his career lining up in the slot and splitting out wide in New Orleans and Seattle. It’s a job description that mirrors what the Packers successfully did with Jared Cook and Jermichael Finley in the past. Head Coach Mike McCarthy has often said over the past few years the changing landscape of the game lends itself to having game-changing tight ends in the middle of the field. Tight end was an obvious area of need for the Packers this offseason after the release of Martellus Bennett in November and with Richard Rodgers heading toward unrestricted free agency. Prior to Graham’s signing, veteran Lance Kendricks was the only Packers tight end with more than one game of NFL regular-season experience under contract for 2018.