Why Is Jimmy Graham Still a Chicago Bear?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Is Jimmy Graham due any roster bonuses and is there a date the Bears will have to make a decision on him? There was lots of speculation of him being cut, so pretty surprised Graham is still on the roster. Hopefully it’s not because of the Russell Wilson dreams. — @luckyneckbeards

Graham has a straightforward contract for the final year of his deal. He has a base salary of $6.9 million for this season and will earn $100,000 in a workout bonus for total compensation of $7 million. Other than a no-trade clause in the deal, that’s about it. His roster status has been somewhat of a question, but at this point I expect Graham to be on the team. If the Bears were going to part with Graham, they would have done so by now. They have a high level of respect for him and wouldn’t wait to part with a veteran of his stature, something that would make it more challenging for him to land elsewhere. So it’s a fair bet that he is in the team’s plans for this season. I wondered if the Bears potentially got a slight pay cut from Graham, but as best as I know, that has not happened. Graham led the team with eight touchdown receptions last season and had another in the playoff loss in New Orleans. With the Bears banking on improvement at quarterback, I would bet they similarly are counting on greater production from Graham. He has been considered a fantastic teammate everywhere he has been and has certainly been a positive influence on Cole Kmet. Yes, $7 million seems like a lot to pay for those intangibles, but that’s the value the Bears have placed on Graham and it looks like he will get that from them this year. As far as Wilson goes, I would bet Graham has put in a good word about the Bears to his former Seahawks teammate, but it’s hard to imagine his presence could facilitate a deal.

Actually, I don’t think Graham is still on the roster just for his intangibles.

The Bears had a lot of trouble scoring in the red zone in 2018 and 2019 without the use of gadget plays. If you gave head coach Matt Nagy a shot of truth serum, he’d probably tell you it was because he didn’t have the mismatches on the roster that he needed to get the ball into the end zone with a short field. Having a good, playmaking tight end is a key to solving that issue.

Graham doesn’t have the wheels to help you a great deal in the open field anymore but he was a reliable red zone target in 2020 with 8 touchdowns. Given his value in that area, the Bears probably don’t think they are over paying him even if the rest of the league does.

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