BAYHAM: Thoughts On A Castaway

In one of the most controversial trades since the infamous Ditka deal for running back Ricky Williams, the Black and Gold sent three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham and their fourth round pick (109th overall) to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and the defending NFC champion’s first round draft pick (31st overall).

Graham is entering the second year of his four-year $40 million contract; Unger is in the penultimate year of his near $25 million contract extension.

The deal provides the Saints additional protection for their franchise quarterback and gives the team a second first round pick, albeit very late one, that could be used to fill in a hole where the team has a talent vacancy.

The Seahawks lost an offensive lineman who they managed to win games without him being on the field in exchange for a player who has set records at his recognized position.

The Seahawks reaped the windfall from the difficult financial position the Saints’ front office seems to be continually stuck in as they struggle with the fiscal realities of the gaudy Drew Brees contract and the cap space it engulfs.

And the Saints really didn’t kick the future obligations can that far down the road as the Brees contract drama from 2012 ago will be revisited next season, which will be the final year in his lucrative deal.

And while the dumping of a key component of the Saints team might have been a necessary evil due to the aforementioned realities, there should be no goalpost dunking after this trade.

The best that could be said about it is that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has more to show for this transaction than he did for the Reggie Bush trade to Miami.

The shaky offensive line has been a major problem for the Saints last season and barring injury Unger will be a stabilizing force in the trenches for the next two seasons until a younger, cheaper lineman emerges.

Though 2014 was an “off year” for Graham, he still hauled in ten of his eighty-five receptions for touchdowns.  Amongst tight ends, the one-time college roundballer was fourth in touchdowns, second in receptions and fifth in receiving yards.

Graham took to the surprise trade hard, changing his Twitter account bio to “TRADED” and his profile picture to an image of him in black athletic gear.  That’s understandable for a man with his childhood.

While many professional athletes come from hard backgrounds, few could compare with Graham’s.  The future multimillionaire was suddenly deposited to the care of the state by his mother wouldn’t come up with a monthly stipend.  At the age of 11 Graham entered a world of torment at the hands of other kids at the facility.

While fans, sports executives and journalists might view the trade from a business/winning standpoint, I don’t think anyone could appreciate the psychological effect the move had on Graham.

Cast out again because someone else didn’t want to pay for him.

If I were a member of the Seahawk organization, I would strongly advise that they avoid greeting their new teammate with hazing.

The second most popular man on the Saints’ roster had a big fan in Brees’ eldest son Baylen, who pretended to be Graham when playing catch with his father.

Graham’s attachment to Brees was such that he joked after the quarterback broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing record that he would never play for another quarterback.  How ironic that Graham’s departure was in large part hastened by Brees’s contract.

I’m sure the commentary by those whose livelihoods are predicated upon team access and dutifully man the barricades to defend the Saints organization’s actions will sting as well, from gossip that Graham was a locker room “cancer” to perpetuating the knock that the tight end was “soft”

Graham wasn’t “soft,” he was great and a role model for other kids who had it rough.

Teams pray that their first round pick will result in the selection of a player of Graham’s caliber.

The Saints front office dealt away a sure thing in Graham in exchange for what they hope is behind Door Number 31 in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Will it be the shutdown cornerback or a playmaking linebacker that the team desperately needs or is the second coming of Patrick Robinson, who was picked two rounds before Graham in 2010, lurking behind the mystery panel?

Right now it looks like the Saints are doubling down on number Nine, or put another way, the Saints’ front office is betting on the past (Brees) and not the future (Graham).

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