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Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 9, TE Jimmy Graham

Tight end Jimmy Graham had just three catches for eight yards in the Seahawks' season opener. (AP)
LISTEN: Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 9, TE Jimmy Graham

During each show until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is counting down the 20 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. The countdown continued with tight end Jimmy Graham. The segment on Graham is embedded above. Brent Stecker’s thoughts are below.

The intrigue

Jimmy Graham is the most high-profile acquisition the Seahawks have made in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, but the results have been mixed since he arrived in Seattle in 2015. On the one hand, he went to the Pro Bowl last season and more likely than not he’s going to have at least one explosive play in every contest. But on the other hand, there’s still questions about what exactly his role is. He’s a huge target at 6 foot 7 and he was athletic as ever in 2016, which was remarkable since he was coming off of a patellar tendon injury that has ruined many careers in the NFL. But for all we’ve heard about his chemistry and relationship with quarterback Russell Wilson, it’s been all too common to wonder why Graham hasn’t emerged as Wilson’s clear favorite receiver in crunch time or in the red zone. And here’s where the really intriguing part comes in: Graham is entering a contract year, and he’s the kind of player that commands a pretty penny. He will cost $10 million against Seattle’s salary cap this season, per OverTheCap.com, and after each season since Seattle acquired him there has been speculation that the team could part ways with him to clear up space. Now that his final year under contract is here, the question is whether he’ll finally seem like he truly fits into the Seahawks’ offense and be re-signed, or if his time in a Seahawks uniform will ultimately be looked at as a failed experiment.

By the numbers

6. Graham had six touchdown receptions in 2016, not a bad number by any stretch and only one short of Doug Baldwin for the team lead. But for all of Graham’s talent and size, he’s supposed to be a monster in the red zone, something that really hasn’t taken shape in his two seasons with Seattle.

95. That’s the number of targets Graham had last season, which was also second on the team but still well short of what he became accustomed to in New Orleans. The Seahawks like to spread the ball around, which is why Graham hasn’t broken 100 targets in a season as a Seahawk after four straight years of at least 124 with the Saints. That makes Seattle’s acquisition of Graham all the more curious. The Seahawks went out and got perhaps the biggest superstar tight end in the NFL not named Rob Gronkowski, but they really haven’t used him like a superstar. In fact, they’ve always wanted him to be a better tight end in the traditional sense, something he is still making strides with. More on that next.

Notable

“He’s become such a complete football player. Wait ’til you see him block this year.” That was Carroll last month after minicamp speaking about Graham, who has never been known for his blocking ability. Since the moment Graham became a Seahawk, though, it has been a point of emphasis for him to improve that area of his game, and it’s expected to be even more of a focus in 2017 as Seattle looks to get its running game back on track after it sputtered in Year 1 without Marshawn Lynch. Carroll seems pretty excited about how Graham will do blocking for Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and company this year, though. “He had a very, very good year in advancing his blocking skills and the demands that we placed on him he accepted and took to heart. You can just tell now his confidence level is in the clouds. He knows he can block guys. … He has no hesitation. He’s just totally grown in that area so he’s so much more of a complete player than maybe we thought he would become.” Graham is set to turn 31 in November, by the way, and a marked improvement in blocking could add a few more years of significant paydays to his career.

Quotable

Don’t count out an uptick in red zone targets this season for Graham. Carroll certainly isn’t. “He and Russell are really tuned in. They spend a lot of time together. They communicate beautifully. Hopefully it will show up as we get closer to the end zone. (We haven’t been) quite as productive as we thought we could be, but that’s a big area of focus for us now.” Carroll added that Seattle’s lagging production inside the 20 has been no fault of Graham, saying it’s “not because he hasn’t made an effort.”

Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 20, WR Jermaine Kearse; No. 19, K Blair Walsh; No. 18, S Bradley McDougald; No. 17, RB Thomas Rawls; No. 16, DT Jarran Reed; No. 15, DE Frank Clark; No. 14, WR/KR Tyler Lockett; No. 13, WR Amara Darboh; No. 12, RB C.J. Prosise; No. 11, RT Germain Ifedi; No. 10, S Kam Chancellor.