Cowboys: How Jimmy Graham would and wouldn’t fit in Dallas

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jimmy Graham /

The Dallas Cowboys embark on the offseason determined to fix their passing game. Could adding free agent tight end Jimmy Graham to the mix be the answer?

The Dallas Cowboys saw their passing attack fall apart this season. Whether it was Dez Bryant dropping balls, Dak Prescott missing targets, or the entire receiving corps running predictable routes, multiple parts are to blame and something big must be done.

While many have been calling for a change at receiver, upgrading tight end may be the most effective fix. With former Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham headlining the free agent class, we’d be remiss if we didn’t concider him as a possible solution.

Why Jimmy Graham makes sense

Jimmy Graham is arguably one of the best tight ends in the NFL. While his numbers dipped in Seattle, his skill remains. Graham, a 6’7” former basketball player, is the league’s biggest mismatch not named “Gronk”.

The 31-year-old is entering free agency for the first time in his career and brings with him a rather impressive resume. With 69 career touchdowns including two seasons with over 1,200 yards, it’s safe to say Graham will be one of the more coveted players on the market.

The way he fits the Cowboys is quite simple: He’d instantly replace Jason Witten as the TE1 and push the Cowboys into more of a two tight end offense once again.

Replacing Jason Witten’s reliability in the offense won’t be easy. Witten hasn’t missed a game since he broke his jaw in his rookie season. But Graham is about as close as one could hope for considering he has played in 15 games or more in seven of his eight NFL seasons.

While Graham isn’t the most accomplished run blocker, Witten would be asked to assume most of those responsibilities in the TE2 role. The big play potential Graham would provide (89 20+ yard plays in his career) would be a significant upgrade to the Cowboys offense and deliver in an area of the field the Cowboys need it most – the middle of the field.

Dak Prescott, like many young QBs, prefers to operate between the hashmarks. Adding a big play weapon like Graham would extremely Dak-friendly and arguably the easiest way to upgrade the offense this season.

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Why Jimmy Graham wouldn’t make sense

Tight end is still regarded generally as a position of strength for the Cowboys in 2018. While we don’t know how many seasons the incomparable Jason Witten has in him, to think he has one or two seasons of above-average play is no stretch of the imagination.

As such, prematurely  putting him out to pasture (even in a back-up role) would be a waste of resources considering the Cowboys have so many other needs to address this offseason. Additionally, committing long-term to a player like Graham all but gives up on the exciting Rico Gathers grand experiment.

Gathers may not have shown much his young career, but what he has flashed has been exciting. And as a potential Jimmy Graham clone, Gathers wouldn’t really fit the bill as a traditional blocking TE2. Gathers may be nothing more than a long-shot pipedream anyway, but the Cowboys have invested and nurtured him for a reason – it would be nice to see it through at least one more season.

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The addition of Graham would also force the Cowboys into more 12 personnel groups. While Jason Garrett has long loved the two tight end formation and the mismatches it brings, it would force Cole Beasley off the field. Beasley may have had a down year statistically, but much of that was because he only ran two routes and defenses schemed to stop it. The reality is the Cowboys run most of their plays from a 11-group and find most of their passing game success through that group.

Finally, there’s the bit about Jimmy Graham’s declining stats and increasing amount of drops. Graham led NFL tight ends in drops last season and while it may be an anomaly, it’s something to consider. His stats also took a hit in his last three seasons with Seattle.

Is it a sign?

It sure looks like it. Some may point to the person throwing him the ball but I’d be quick to point out Dak Prescott is lot more like Russell Wilson than Drew Brees so he’d be more likely to repeat those Wilson numbers than the Brees numbers. And if we’re being completely honest, Dak is a long ways from being either one of those guys in the passing game. Would you be good with spending all your free agent money on guy that’s likely to average 56 catches for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns per season?

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To put it another way, would you be willing to let DeMarcus Lawrence go in free agency (or let Anthony Hitchens, Tyrone Crawford, and Dez go) to make the Jimmy Graham dream a reality? That’s a tougher question to answer.

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There are plenty of reasons Jimmy Graham to the Dallas Cowboys makes sense but in the end there are too many reasons why he doesn’t make sense. In the game of properly allocating resources, the Cowboys must turn their attention elsewhere because they can’t afford to invest everything here.