On the first official day of the 2015 NFL Free agency, two Pro Bowl tight ends, Julius Thomas and Jimmy Graham, find themselves on their way to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.
Thomas is expected to sign a five-year contract worth an average of $9.2 million each season, and the contract will include $24 million guaranteed, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 26-year-old is an unrestricted free agent after spending the last four seasons with the Denver Broncos.
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported the New Orleans Saints agreed on a trade with Seattle to send Graham and a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks in return for center Max Unger and a first-round pick. The 28-year-old tight end just signed a four-year contract worth $40 million last offseason.
The Seahawks landed one of the best tight ends in the NFL. The third-round draft pick racked up 4,752 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns on 386 receptions in his first five seasons, according to ESPN.com.
Graham is also owner of this impressive stat, per ESPN Stats & Info:
However, Graham is coming off his worst season since his rookie year, due to nagging shoulder injuries. Graham caught 85 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. The 6’7” tight end also dealt with lingering injuries in 2012 and 2013 with a hurt wrist and a torn plantar fascia.
Graham is set to make $2.9 million in base salary this season with a $5 million roster bonus coming later this week, according to Spotrac.
In return for the star tight end, the Seahawks ship Unger, 28, to New Orleans. The Oregon product missed 10 regular-season games in 2014 due to knee and ankle injuries.
Bleacher Report’s NFL and NFL Draft Lead Analyst Matt Miller described the importance of the two-time Pro Bowler’s addition to the Saints.
This trade means the Seahawks will once again trade away their first-round draft pick for a veteran player. Seattle traded away their 25th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft to Minnesota in their trade for Percy Harvin.
Harvin only appeared in six regular-season and two playoff games for Seattle before the Seahawks traded him to the New York Jets last season.
The Seahawks will hope the move for Graham has a bigger impact than their last blockbuster trade.
After pursuit from the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, the Jacksonville Jaguars land one of the premier tight ends in the NFL.
Between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Thomas caught 108 passes for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The four-year veteran out of Portland State hit free agency after the Broncos opted to utilize their franchise tag on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas instead.
Despite recent success in Denver, the tight end only recorded one catch for five yards and no touchdowns through his first two seasons in the NFL. Thomas missed the majority of his first two seasons due to an ankle injury.
On top of that, the tight end only appeared in 13 games this past season after injuring his other ankle against the St. Louis Rams. Thomas caught three passes in the last six games of the 2014 regular season.
The move for the Jaguars to sign Thomas makes sense, though, due to their cap space and lack of production at the position.
Jacksonville’s first-choice tight end, Marcedes Lewis, only produced 565 yards and six touchdowns on 43 catches the past two seasons. As an entire group, the Jaguars only completed 47 passes to tight ends in the 2014 season.
ESPN’s Trey Wingo explains how Thomas solves a positional need for the Jaguars:
At the same time, Jacksonville’s $66.3 million in cap space is the most of any team entering free agency, according to Cord Gaines of Business Insider.
The addition of another weapon for Blake Bortles will only help with the young quarterback’s development.
With still tons of cap space, the Jaguars will likely still be major players in free agency.
Status: Reported by Ian Rapoport.