Patriots Insider readers first learned months ago that New England Patriots unrestricted free agent tight end Daniel Graham would probably hit free agency this year and likely wouldn't return. Behind-the-scenes rumblings made the prediction increasingly more likely as the March 1st, deadline approached. Barely two days into free agency, the Patriots had Graham's replacement in town and were closing the book on their former first round pick.
While New England was courting Graham's replacement, the former Patriot left on a free agency tour of teams around the league. Graham headed west, visiting the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks (As scout.com reported ). He is now drawing interest from New Orleans.
Radio reports surfaced that the Broncos signed Graham, but those turned out to be untrue, and Graham left Denver for his next stop. Seattle looks to be the front-runner for Graham's services now, as Denver did just a few days ago. One key his suitors need to know is his desire to be more of a pass catcher.
"My biggest concern going into the market is how teams are going to use me," Graham told the Rocky Mountain News. "I feel like all of my talents weren't being used up in New England. I wanted to catch more balls than I did up there"
The comments Graham shared in Denver, reflected similar sentiments he expressed privately to trusted sources in New England. Not one to cause a public scene over his playing time, Graham quietly played out his contract and opted to find a better situation elsewhere.
The Vikings were also reportedly interested in having a tight end of Graham's caliber on their roster. It appears thought that their signing of Visanthe Shiancoe has taken them out of the running, according to Viking Update's Tim Yotter.
|New England Patriots tight end Daniel Graham (82) is stopped by Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas (54) in the first quarter during a football game in Miami, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)|
Adam Caplan of Scout.com also reported that Graham would like to expand his duties to include more options as a receiver. Per Caplan, league sources believe Seattle is a very attractive situation and that he could find his receiving skills put to more use. Caplan also noted that Graham was one of the better receiving tight ends in the 2002 draft and his role was changed in New England as he demonstrated superior blocking abilities. With the acquisition of tight ends Ben Watson in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft and David Thomas in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Graham's pass-catching opportunities were limited in New England.
A 2006 offensive captain in New England, Graham was selected in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Patriots out of colorado. His 120 catches for 1,393 yards and 17 touchdowns lead all Patriot tight ends over that time period. His stats are virtually identical to those of Seattle's Jerramy Stevens (130/1,458/15), the Seahawks free agent tight end who has had consistency issues over the years.
At 6'3" and 257 pounds, Graham has the size and the reputation as a solid blocking tight end, yet he has potential to help Matt Hasselbeck in the passing game. The Seahawks need those traits at the position, as Stevens has been unable to take advantage of his considerable talents.
Wherever Graham ends up, he'll have an opportunity to show his first-round talent. If it is Seattle, at least he'll be among friends. The Seahawks traded for wide receiver Deion Branch and acquired Tom Ashworth as a free agent in 2006.
Doug Farrar of Seahawks.net and FootballOutsiders.com contributed to this report.