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NFL Draft

Jimmy Graham’s Most Important Role For Bears Is Off The Field

  • The Draft Network
  • May 29, 2021
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By Michael Fitzpatrick

With 2020 second-round pick Cole Kmet coming on strong to finish his rookie year, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Chicago Bears would opt to free up around $7 million by cutting Jimmy Graham. Tight end coach Clancy Barone made it clear that cutting Graham was never in the cards, saying the coaches knew he would be back “from Day 1.” So, what, exactly, does Chicago have planned for the 6-foot-7 Miami product in 2021?

First and foremost, Graham will be a red-zone specialist. He caught eight scores in 2020, and almost all of them were of the red-zone-jump-ball variety. Regardless of who starts, the Bears will be breaking in a new quarterback, and having a dominant target in the red zone will be “invaluable,” to use Barone’s words. 

Keeping Graham as a red-zone weapon makes sense in a vacuum, but Kmet has the size to be an option down there and Allen Robinson II is as good as any receiver at going up and getting it too. Barone alluded to what is likely the real reason Chicago decided to keep Graham around.

"The thing also with Jimmy, he's a great culture guy for the locker room and he gets it," he said. "He's a guy a lot of people lean on and so forth and listen to and so trying to build that great culture in the locker room, Jimmy is a guy that I think is part of that foundation."

Graham has been around the block a few times. He has infinite knowledge he can pass on to Kmet as he grows into the Bears’ tight end of the future. Graham has also played with Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers in his career. Passing on any of the tricks of the trade he saw those three use to Justin Fields can only make Chicago’s future brighter.

Graham will still have a role on the field in 2021, though it will be smaller than it was in 2020; his most important job will be helping the young players grow and mature into stars.

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