Salk: The Seahawks’ issues started when they traded for Jimmy Graham

Dec 20, 2017, 11:35 AM | Updated: 11:35 am
Jimmy Graham is a Pro Bowler, but he may not have been the tight end the Seahawks needed. (AP)...
Jimmy Graham is a Pro Bowler, but he may not have been the tight end the Seahawks needed. (AP)

The Seahawks’ problems began the moment they traded Max Unger and a first rounder for Jimmy Graham and a fifth. And no, it’s not because they miss Unger (although they do). And not because Jimmy has been disappointing (although at times he has been).

It’s because of what the trade symbolized.

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The Seahawks made a decision to become more of a finesse team, and that ran contrary to their stated goal of being a physical, run-first, balanced football team. That has consequences.

I like Graham as a player. He is big, has a broad catching radius and has given Seattle an important option in the red zone. When the team gets close to the goal line, he seems to come alive and he has often bailed them out of a jam.

And I don’t mind them spending resources on offensive weaponry. I don’t think providing Russell Wilson and Darrell Bevell with a few toys on the outside causes them to stray from their identity. But Graham isn’t an outside player.

The tight end position is one of those spots on the field where you get to choose what kind of a team you want to be. As a hybrid lineman/receiver, most tight ends tend to excel in one aspect of their job. Zach Miller was a tremendous blocker who was capable in the passing game. Jimmy Graham is a tremendous receiver who can occasionally be coerced into blocking.

That makes Graham a great fit in some of the pass-happy offenses around football. Heck, it would make him a great fit here in Seattle as a second tight end that you use in passing situations and around the goal line. But the moment they chose to give up significant resources to acquire a finesse tight end is the moment they chose to weaken their identity. And while they haven’t totally abandoned their physical mantra, it’s difficult to convince anyone that it is still the same priority when their actions in setting up the roster haven’t demonstrated that clear agenda.

If the Hawks want to reclaim the identity that Pete Carroll admitted this week was not clearly established in Week 16 of the season, they need to make roster decisions that reflect that choice. Let Graham walk as a free agent and replace him with a tight end who can block and maybe get an extra fullback and another guard. Demonstrate that physicality isn’t just a buzzword by walking the walk, not just talking about it.

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Salk: The Seahawks’ issues started when they traded for Jimmy Graham