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Packers plan to bring Jimmy Graham back for another season

January 30, 2019

GREEN BAY — Late in the season, Jimmy Graham said wanted a second chance with the Green Bay Packers after his first year with Aaron Rodgers didn’t go as planned. It appears the veteran tight end is going to get his wish.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that the Packers are entering their offseason planning with the belief that Graham will return for a second season in Green Bay. Graham signed a three-year, $30 million deal in free agency last March but didn’t have the impact he envisioned, finishing the season with 55 receptions for 636 yards (11.6-yard average) and just two touchdowns.

While he played in all 16 games, he did so with a broken thumb suffered during a Nov. 15 loss at Seattle and played the final six games wearing a protective splint.

During a rare conversation with reporters in December, Graham admitted his first season with the Packers had been disappointing. In his last season in Seattle, he caught 57 passes for 520 yards but had 10 touchdowns and was a constant red-zone threat for the Seahawks — something he wasn’t for the Packers, who were among the league’s worst teams in red-zone success.

“My numbers suck,” Graham said that day. “(But) my numbers aren’t the problem. That’s not what it’s about, you know? I just want to win games. If I have a one catch for 2 yards and we win, I don’t care. But obviously it’s not great when you’re not helping us win. And that’s what I see.”

The Packers finished 6-9-1 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season, despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers starting all 16 games. The team’s struggles led to coach Mike McCarthy’s firing with four games left in the season. Earlier this month, the Packers hired former Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as their new head coach, meaning the team will be running a different offense in 2019.

Both Rodgers and Graham expressed hope late in the year that they’d get another season together after not getting on the same page the way they’d hoped. Rodgers missed a significant amount of early-season practice time after sustaining a left knee injury in the opener against Chicago.

“I’d like to start back fresh and see if we can find ways to use him consistently every week, and doing things that he’s really good at,” Rodgers said of Graham before the team’s regular-season finale.

“Jimmy and I have known each other for a number of years now, and it’s been great having him. He’s just a really great guy to be around. (He’s) super hard on himself in a constructive, positive way, and always looking to improve. You guys don’t get to talk to him a whole lot, but very insightful, interesting guy as well.”

There was some reason to wonder whether Graham, who turned 32 in November, would return in 2019 with a $5 million roster bonus due on March 15. But Rapoport reported that the Packers intend to pay that bonus, all but assuring he’ll be on the roster next season. Graham’s three-year deal contained a guaranteed $11 million signing bonus and $13 million in total pay for 2018.

“You know, I’ve always dominated everywhere I’ve (gone). Obviously, I haven’t done that yet here,” Graham said. “So, it would be nice to get an opportunity to do it (next season) — come back and maybe just be kind of more comfortable here. But I’m going to give it my all no matter what’s asked of me anywhere I go, or if I stay here.”

Extra points

Sports Illustrated and the Houston Chronicle reported that the Packers were one of several teams to interview Wes Welker for a position on their staff. Welker, 37, was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro pick as a player during a 12-year NFL career that included three Super Bowl appearances. Welker, who led the NFL in receptions in three of his six seasons with the New England Patriots and ranks 22nd in NFL history in receptions, served as the Houston Texans’ assistant wide receivers coach and special-teams coach this past season. He’s also reportedly interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers. … The Packers officially announced Tuesday their hiring of Luke Getsy as quarterbacks coach, which was widely reported last week. Getsy, the wide receivers coach in ’16 and ’17, returns to Green Bay after one year as Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator.

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