Chicago Bears: Why Jimmy Graham signing will pay off

Chicago Bears (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

To many, the Chicago Bears made a head-scratching move this offseason, signing Jimmy Graham to a two-year, $16 million deal.

Ryan Pace took a big leap of faith in signing Jimmy Graham this offseason. The tight-end position has been a sore spot for the Chicago Bears, as injuries and inconsistent play from Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen among others has hampered an already stagnant offense.

While the former All-Pro tight-end has seen his production on the field dip dramatically over the past few seasons, there’s still a ton of hidden value in having him on the roster.

Pace knows Graham well during their time working together with the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately that was years ago, when Graham was catching touchdowns from Drew Brees while making highlight-reel plays look routine.

Now, the 33-years old Graham is coming off perhaps his most disappointing season, despite playing with Aaron Rodgers, who is typically as accurate of a thrower as they come. Graham caught just 38 passes last season for 447 yards, while playing in all 16 games.

Durability has never been a major concern for Graham, unlike pretty much every tight-end that has put on a Bears’ helmet since the Pace era began. Still, relying on a 33-year old who is way past his prime to help stabilize the Bears’ tight-end position appears by many to be a desperate move by Pace, whose organization hasn’t done well drafting or developing tight-ends coming out of college.

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Even with some of the warranted criticism by both fans and media pundits, there are still plenty of underrated positives that come with having Graham on the roster.

For starters, Graham appears as motivated as ever to prove his doubters wrong this upcoming season. Like everyone, Graham is no stranger to what people are saying about him. Getting released by the Green Bay Packers this offseason, there’s no doubt he’ll be looking to prove to his former team that they made a big-time mistake in letting him go.

In addition, Graham mentioned recently in his introductory press conference call with the Bears and reporters that he feels better now physically than he has in recent years. Having a rejuvenated Graham who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder will bolster the Bears’ tight-end room this season.

Furthermore, Graham is an experienced veteran, having played 10 seasons in the NFL. He has made it to 5 Pro-Bowls, and is among the all-time career leaders in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns for his position.

Graham can be an open-book for the other tight-ends and pass-catchers on the Bears roster, given his wealth of knowledge regarding how to make clutch plays. Even if he’s not performing well on the field, he can still become a positive mentor to others, much like former Bear TE Zach Miller has become.

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Finally, having played for Green Bay over the past two seasons, Graham can share his familiarity of the Packers’ play-calling with the Bears, which will only aid Khalil Mack and company in their quest to overtake them in the NFC North.

Overall, signing Graham to a two-year deal may end up surprisingly paying great dividends both on and off the field.