The Green Bay Packers are signing arguably the best tight end in free agency while parting ways with one of their most experienced team leaders.
The Packers are expected to sign former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal when the free-agent signing period begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, sources informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. In a related move, the Packers released veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
“We cannot thank Jordy enough for all that he has given the Green Bay Packers and our community for the past 10 years,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “He has been an exemplary professional and teammate and greatly contributed to our success. Jordy will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the PackersHall of Fame. We wish Jordy, his wife Emily, and the rest of their family all the best.”
Graham was ranked No. 21 on NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018. In addition to the Packers, the New Orleans Saints — the team he played on for five years to start his career — and the Chicago Bears were among the teams in the hunt for his services. Graham helps add a much-needed talent jolt to a Green Bay tight end position that has been lacked a dynamic playmaker since Jared Cook left last offseason.
Nelson, who will be 33 in May, joins the free-agent market as one of the better wide receivers up for the taking. The 2014 All-Pro, who was considered one of Aaron Rodger’s most trusted lieutenants on offense, had a terrific comeback season in 2016 after his 2015 campaign was wiped out by a torn ACL in the preseason.
Still, Nelson struggled to make a big impact within the Rodgers-depleted offense last season. After posting 1,257 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016, he was limited to 482 yards and six TDs in 2017.
The Seahawks, Patriots, 49ers and Cowboys are among the teams that are expected to be active in the wide-receiver market, and they could potentially chase Nelson in the days ahead. A fan favorite in Green Bay, the soon-to-be 11-year NFL veteran is ranked No. 61 in NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.
Graham was considered one of the top tight ends available in free agency, even if he isn’t quite the same player he was in 2013 when he took home All-Pro honors. At 31, the five-time Pro Bowler still has the ability to be a difference-maker on the field, as long as he stays healthy. While Graham no longer the explosive mismatch he once was in the open field, he remains a highly effective red-zone weapon.
The moves continue to showcase the sea change that has flooded into the Packers‘ front office this offseason with Gutekunst taking over the team’s general managerial reins from Ted Thompson. It remains to be seen what else the Packers will do in the free-agent market this week.