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Saints Legend Could Return To NFL, But With Panthers, Chargers

After losing tight end Juwan Johnson, the Saints could use old friend Jimmy Graham - but they might have to fight off teams for his services
Jimmy Graham Saints

At his peak, Jimmy Graham has a case to be the best tight end in New Orleans Saints history. Selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Miami product was second only to Rob Gronkowski in the tight end world from 2011 to 2013. While he has dropped off quite a bit since then, New Orleans could still look to bring him back in 2024. After missing all of 2022, the tight end spent the 2023 season as a depth option in New Orleans. While he only recorded six receptions, he found the endzone on four separate occasions and carved out a decent role as a red zone threat.

While the Saints and Jimmy Graham himself both appeared content to part ways, recent activity suggests he could be back for another season. According to ESPN’s Katherin Terrell, the tight end “hasn’t closed the door” on returning to the NFL despite hinting at retirement earlier in the offseason. New Orleans, meanwhile, could use another tight end following the injury to starter Juwan Johnson. While Graham shouldn’t be a full-time starter at this point in his career, he is familiar with the playbook and can provide a safe floor for this offense.

Saints Jimmy Graham Could Return For 2024, Could Find Other Teams

Of course, there is a chance Jimmy Graham continues his NFL career with a team other than the Saints. New Orleans recently signed veteran Jesper Horsted, so the team might prefer him over Graham. If that’s the case, the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers could be interested in his services.

Carolina spent the past few months trying to make life easier for former first-overall pick Bryce Young. While the team heavily invested in the interior offensive line and brought in wide receivers Diontae Johnson and first-round pick Xavier Legette, they could still use more help at tight end. Jimmy Graham won’t carry an offense at this point, but the longtime Saint could provide some much-needed leadership for rookie Ja’Tavion Sanders.

Projected by most draft analysts to go off the board in the second or third round, Sanders fell to the fourth round in the 2024 NFL Draft. The rookie has a similar profile to Graham, as he’s a strong receiver with underwhelming blocking ability. Graham’s on-field contribution will involve work in the redzone, but his off-field ability to teach Sanders how to get the most out of his skillset could prove invaluable for this franchise. Even if he’s not the teaching type, it’s hard to imagine a world where Graham is worse than third-string tight end Ian Thomas.

The Chargers, meanwhile, should take as many shots as possible on the tight end position. This team has the worst collection of pass-catching talent in the league, and while most of the attention is on the receiver, the tight end room could use some work. Hayden Hurst and Will Dissly are battling it out for the starting job, and neither player should have a featured role at this point in their careers. Jimmy Graham shouldn’t either, but the longtime Saint could provide some competition for this lackluster group.

Main Photo: Stephen Lew – USA Today Sports


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