Seahawks trade for Jimmy Graham

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015
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The New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a trade sending Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round draft pick to Seattle for center Max Unger and the 31st pick in the 2015 draft, the teams announced.

The trade is pending passed physicals by both players.

Graham tweeted out a thank you to his former Saints teammates and the team's fans on Wednesday.

Graham, 28, is regarded as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL, a player who often lines up as a wide receiver. He has 4,752 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns since entering the NFL as a third-round pick in 2010. In his five seasons with the Saints, Graham had more receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns than any other tight end in team history.

"We would like to thank Jimmy for all that he has done for our organization for the last five seasons," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement. "He became a very productive tight end with our team. We wish Jimmy the best of luck in the future. We also want to welcome Max to our team. Max has been an instrumental Pro Bowl player with Seattle since being drafted in 2009 in the second round. In addition, with the first round draft pick, we will have the opportunity to impact our team for years to come."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was taken aback by the move, telling the NFL Network: "I'm as shocked as everyone else. I love the guy."

According to ESPN's Stats & Information, Seahawks tight ends combined for 48 receptions in the 2014 season, sixth fewest in the NFL. Quarterback Russell Wilson didn't target his tight ends once in the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. It was the first time in his career that he didn't target a tight end in a game.

"We are thrilled to have an opportunity to acquire a player of Jimmy Graham's caliber, and will remain relentless in our pursuit of sustaining that championship culture," Seahawks GM John Schneider said in a statement.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton and Loomis had made it clear that they didn't plan to sit idly by after a disappointing 7-9 season in which the Saints underachieved on both sides of the ball -- Graham included.

Graham caught 85 passes for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns last season but was less effective than ever as a downfield threat, averaging a career-low 10.5 yards per reception.

He battled a significant shoulder injury for most of the season, which affected his ability to dominate physically off the line and in the red zone. He still played in all 16 games and had some success fighting through the injury with some big performances in the middle of the season. But he fizzled down the stretch, with just 20 catches for 219 yards and one touchdown over the final five games.

"Coming to us from a primary basketball background with limited experience in 2010, Jimmy immediately got to work in the weight room, on the practice field and in the playbook and quickly evolved into one of the top tight ends that I have ever coached," Payton said. "Decisions like these are always difficult and we wish Jimmy the best of luck. We're excited to add Max to our offensive line. He is a tough, physical player where he blocked for one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL, he has been a solid contributor to Seattle's success."

Unger, 28, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection out of Oregon. He was one of only three players on the Seahawks who were on the team before Pete Carroll became head coach in 2010, along with nose tackle Brandon Mebane and punter Jon Ryan. Unger played in only six regular-season games last year because of knee and ankle injuries.

"We would like to thank Max for his leadership and the role he has played in helping establish our current championship culture. He is a former captain and has been a respected and valued leader for our consecutive Super Bowl teams. We wish him nothing but the best as he continues his career," Schneider said.

The Seahawks released tight end Zach Miller last week, so it was clear they were in the market for another tight end. Graham is starting a four-year, $40 million contract that will pay him $10 million this season and has $20.9 million in guaranteed money.

The Saints also released veteran linebacker and captain Curtis Lofton and longtime running back Pierre Thomas in recent days, with more big moves still possible. Meanwhile, top cornerback Keenan Lewis voiced his displeasure Tuesday over the Saints' unwillingness to guarantee the final three years of his contract -- insisting that they trade or release him if they are not willing to commit to him.

With the trade, the Seahawks went from 6-1 Super Bowl odds to 5-1 and the Saints from 25-1 to 30-1 at the Westgate Las Vegas.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Terry Blount and David Purdum contributed to this report.

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