NEW ORLEANS It makes perfect dollars and sense for the New Orleans Saints to bring tight end Jimmy Graham back into the fold this offseason.
He becomes an unrestricted free agent in March after playing the past three seasons in Seattle where he fulfilled a blockbuster four-year, $40 million contract that he originally signed with the Saints in July 2014.
To refresh: In March 2015, Saints officials dealt Graham and a fourth-round pick in '15 to the Seahawks for center Max Unger and a No. 1 pick in '15 which they used on Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony at No. 31.
Graham is a former college basketball player who came to the Saints in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and quickly developed into an offensive weapon, especially in the red zone where he could use his massive 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame.
In his second season, Graham set a franchise record with 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. He went on to catch 256 balls for 3,086 yards and 35 TDs in 2012-'13-'14 before being whisked off to the Pacific Northwest.
Graham is a five-time Pro Bowler, the last two selections earned with the Seahawks in 2016 and '17. And while he did not come close to matching his New Orleans numbers in Seattle under coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson, he didn't embarrass himself, either.
Graham still has tread on his tires after eight productive NFL seasons.
At 31, his next NFL contract could be his last.
I understand Graham would love to rejoin forces with Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, assuming Brees re-ups with the Black and Gold and assuming Saints GM Mickey Loomis shows Graham the money.
And assuming all is forgiven between player and Saints officials. If you remember, negotiations reached the contentious stage during the 2014 offseason as debate raged whether he should be compensated as a tight end or a wide receiver, a decision that ultimately had to be reached by a NFL arbiter.
Graham was ruled to be a tight end, though he often plays in the slot and split apart from the right or left tackle to present matchup problems for opposing defenses.
So what kind of money would it take to see Graham back in his old number 80?
According to Spotrac's calculated market value, Graham is looking at a three-year deal worth approximately $20.2 million. Spotrac arrived at that figure after evaluating the age, contract status and statistical production of four comparable NFL tight ends -- Martellus Bennett (New England), Greg Olsen (Carolina), Vernon Davis (Washington) and Delanie Walker (Tennessee).
Tight end is an integral position in the Saints weekly game plan. The top three currently under contract are Coby Fleener ($8 million cap hit in 2018), Josh Hill ($2.83 million) and Michael Hoomanawanui ($1.933 million).
In my fantasy world, Hill and Hoomanawanui are keepers and Fleener either takes a significant cap reduction or would be shown the door.
And I would welcome Jimmy Graham back with open arms.
Imagine the inside/outside receiving tandem of Graham and wideout Michael Thomas sharing the same field with Pro Bowl running backs Boom (Mark Ingram) & Zoom (Alvin Kamara)?
It's a field of dreams.