JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: When it comes to the Jimmy Graham debate, Seahawks need to add talent, not subtract

Jan 25, 2017, 6:30 AM | Updated: 9:41 am
Despite his hefty price tag, John Clayton writes that the Seahawks are better off with him than not...
Despite his hefty price tag, John Clayton writes that the Seahawks are better off with him than not. (AP)
(AP)

What makes pro football so great is that player personnel debates last 365 days a year.

During the season, debates on who should play and who should be benched are daily. Once the season ends, the conversation goes over to free agency, the salary cap and trades. There is always something to discuss.

One of the interesting debates with the Seahawks is what to do with tight end Jimmy Graham and strong safety Kam Chancellor. This is where football interest is so vast. While 31 teams and fans of those teams are worried about 2017 free agency, we’re talking 2018 free agency.

The Seahawks have 14 unrestricted free agents, and the top debates include tight end Luke Willson and kicker Stephen Hauschka, not necessarily the big-name starters as you see in other cities.

I can’t get the Graham argument. He earned his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl despite coming off a ruptured patellar tendon. He almost had a 1,000-yard season, which is rare for a tight end. He’s a matchup nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs. But because he makes $10 million a year, there is a big percentage of the fan base not buying into Graham. Some want him included in a trade that would help the offensive line. Others want him to be released to clear up cap room.

Stop.

The Seahawks are in good shape with the cap. They have more than $20 million of room. They also don’t have a huge to-do list of contract negotiations. Sure, some future decisions need to be made on Graham, but letting him go or moving him in a trade would be the craziest thing the Seahawks could do.

What the Seahawks need to do is add more talent, not subtract it. Moving Graham would weaken the roster, and it would come at a bad time. Since 2013-2014, the Seahawks have settled into a team that wins 10 games a season instead of 12 or 13. They need to strengthen the roster and not weaken it.

Fans get caught up too much in Graham’s $10 million salary. Sure, the team can get more out of him. Russell Wilson needs more than six touchdowns from Graham, but is that Graham’s fault? I contend it isn’t.

To be great in the red zone, a team needs to have a great running threat. That didn’t happen last season for various reasons. The Seahawks’ offensive line was young and inconsistent. The backs never settled into a level of consistency. Wilson played the first part of the season injured.

Those problems can’t be pinned on Graham. If Pete Carroll can resolve those problems, Graham should have his best season next year. The team has to decide by March 11 whether to give him a $2 million roster bonus.

They also have to make a decision on whether to give him a contract extension. Graham is 30 and in his prime. The only debate is whether to extend him and at what price.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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Clayton: When it comes to the Jimmy Graham debate, Seahawks need to add talent, not subtract