With free agency about to begin word leaked that the Seattle Seahawks are going to trade for star tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints. In return the Saints will get back center Max Unger and a first round draft pick.
Saints and Seattle have now agreed on trade sending jimmy graham and a 4 to Seattle for max Unger and a 1st
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) March 10, 2015
From the Saints perspective this is a shocking move. They just signed Graham last season to a $10 million a year contract in which they paid him $13 million, most of which came in the form of a large signing bonus. Graham was generally considered the second best tight end in the NFL, behind only Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots.
While the salary cap is always a concern for the Saints this is not a cap related move. Graham will now count for $9 million against the Saints cap due to that large bonus, a gain of just $2 million in space. Unger will bring back with him a salary of $4.5 million, a net loss on the move.
My feeling is that the trade is more about a fear on Graham’s future and his less than expected play than anything else. While cash flows can be an issue they will likely break even on the move. They avoid $8 million in salary for Graham this season but will pick up $4.5 million for Unger and another $3.8 million in payments to their first round draft pick. I believe the team felt it was best to strike now before there is limited value later. This will solve some future cap problems as Graham’s $12 million cap hit in 2016 will now vanish from the books.
For Seattle this is a good fit of a player for their offense. Graham is a big play guy and that is what the Seahawks will look for in their downfield passing attack. While he may not put up the big numbers he put up in New Orleans I would expect his contributions to be significant when they target him.
From their financial perspective they will take on an $8 million cap hit for Graham this season, $9 million in 2016, and $10 million in 2017. None of the money after this season is guaranteed so they can cut Graham at any time if things did not work out. They will carry a $2.2 million dead charge for Unger and gain $3.4 million by trading him. That works out to a net cap loss of $7.6 million, and about $6.4 million once you factor the draft pick in.
Seattle has seemingly moved away from the model that they constructued their team with as this is their second major trade in three years to try to improve their receiver spot. The move for Percy Harvin ended up being one of the worst trades in recent memory and he was traded just one and a half years into his tenure. Seattle will hope this one pays off much more.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.