(AP) Jimmy Graham’s hobby is flying small planes. So after completing his morning workout earlier this week he decided to fly a six-seater to a Florida beach for lunch.
While there, New Orleans coach Sean Payton called and informed Graham his next destination was on the opposite side of the country.
A shock for the perennial Pro Bowl tight end in not just being traded, but being dealt to the two-time defending NFC champions? You bet.
“Maybe not even a month ago, I was in the city and saw Mickey (Loomis) and was talking about next season with Mickey,” Graham said in a conference call with Seattle-area media on Thursday. “Even when the season ended, just talking with the coaches, talking about what we’re going to do, what we’re going to work on, so it was definitely out of left field.”
Graham became the latest option in the Seattle Seahawks offense when he was acquired on Tuesday along with a fourth-round draft pick in exchange for center Max Unger and Seattle’s first-round pick. On a day when free agency was supposed to be the focus, the deal for one of the most prolific tight ends in football upstaged everything else.
Graham was in Seattle on Wednesday and passed his physical but the trade won’t be finalized until Unger takes his physical with the Saints, expected next week. He’ll be leaving behind the relationship he developed since he arrived in the NFL with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, but is already looking ahead to the next chapter and what he could add to go along with Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the rest of Seattle’s offense.
“Marshawn, you have to put guys in the box and you have to bring safeties down,” Graham said. “When you’re playing cover zero there are a lot of one-on-ones, there are a lot of opportunities down the field, there are a lot of opportunities in that middle section where you have guys in these one-on-one matchups and I think eventually teams won’t be able to do that. You won’t be able to go cover zero to stop the run and I think I can help open that up. And then in the red zone, that’s something I’ve always been good at.”
Not surprisingly, Wilson was the first Seahawks player to reach out to Graham after the trade. Graham said he’ll go through the same process with Wilson that he did with Brees in developing their passing game relationship.
“I said I’m going to go wherever I need to go and I’m going to be wherever I need to be to be with you and to work on this chemistry. Because that is the most important thing is chemistry and the only way to work on that is time,” Graham said.
Since the start of the 2011 season no tight end in the NFL has matched Graham’s production. He has led all tight ends in receptions, yards receiving and touchdowns. He held out before the start of last season before signing a $40 million, four-year extension rather than playing under the franchise tag. Seattle will inherit the remaining three years on that contract.
Graham argued during the franchise tag situation with the Saints that he should be viewed as a wide receiver. While his position remains tight end, he’ll essentially be Seattle’s No. 1 receiver. And the attention that’ll have to be paid toward Graham should create more opportunities for the rest of Seattle’s receiving group.
He’s well aware there will be fewer passes thrown in Seattle than the aerial show in New Orleans. Graham was targeted 124 times last season by the Saints. No Seattle receiver was targeted more than 100 times.
“It’s all about having an opportunity and a chance at winning a championship and that’s all I care about. If a team needs me to catch 100 footballs or a team needs me to catch 30 or a team needs me to catch 15 touchdowns or 5 touchdowns, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. I’m not complaining at all about any of that. I just want to be part of this team and I want to be there in big moments for this team and this franchise to help us win games.”