Speculation on the future of Patriots TE Dan Graham reached new heights when a recent article mentioned a possible trade scenario for Denver Broncos receiver Ashlie Lelie and two other teams. The article addressed Denver's desire to unload the disgruntled Lelie and their need for a tight end. Graham, who has been rumored to be reaching the end of his tenure in New England after this year, has been associated with a number of possible trade scenarios including the recent Lelie discussion.
Graham hasn't been working out in team drills during Patriots minicamp, and has been unavailable to the media to address the rumors. Although no official designation has been given to the Graham's status, his absence raises questions.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick attempted to defuse the speculation surrounding Graham's status and the possible trade speculation in comments made yesterday. ESPN reports that Belichick discussed the team's stance on Graham before Thursday's minicamp session.
"We have not had a single discussion about trading Daniel Graham," Belichick told ESPN.com. "We will not trade Daniel Graham this year."
The time to maximize Graham's value via a trade may have been during Draft weekend. A number of reports surfaced surrounding the possibility of the Patriots using Graham, who is in his final contract year, as a possible bargaining chip in a trade to move up in the Draft. Instead the Patriots used a package of picks to move up and select receiver Chad Jackson in the second round, keeping Graham on the roster. Although New England was involved in trade discussions for receiver Javon Walker, it was the Broncos who finally traded for the former Green Bay pass catcher. Acquiring Lelie via a trade would address the Patriots' need for a veteran receiver to replace the departed David Givens.
Until Deion Branch returns from his holdout, the Patriots have only Troy Brown, newcomer Reche Caldwell and group of young receivers to catch passes. The Lelie speculation and the possibility that Graham may still be an option in trade discussions still exists even though Belichick claims it's not going to happen.
Scout.com reported earlier this offseason, it is likely Graham's last season in New England with or without a trade.