After a one week hiatus due to no roster moves, Transaction Tracker is back this week with many moves including one major contract extension that created a new highest-paid player at a position. This transaction––along with another contract extension––is discussed in depth below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.
Concluding a very long news cycle about Graham, the Saints signed the tight end––we can officially call him that now––to a long-term contract this week.
A four-year contract worth $40 million, he becomes the highest-paid tight end in the NFL with an average of $10 million per season, beating out Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots who averages $9 million per season. Graham receives a signing bonus of $12 million with $20.9 million guaranteed. This guaranteed money comes from the signing bonus, a $1 million base salary in 2014, a $2.9 million base salary in 2015 and a $5 million roster bonus in 2015. These two 2015 numbers are not initially guaranteed. They will become guaranteed on the third league day in 2015. The cap hit this season is a very reasonable $4 million.
Given the franchise tag this offseason, he challenged the tag saying that he is a wide receiver, not a tight end like the franchise tag said. The difference between the two franchise tag numbers is approximately $5 million with the tight end tag coming in at around $7 million and the wide receiver one at $12 million.
Graham’s argument was that he spent so much time lined up in the slot and not like a traditional tight end, making him a wide receiver. However, he was ruled a tight end, as he should have been. The tight end position is changing so much that lining up like a wide receiver is something that tight ends are doing all the time now.
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At 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, he is a matchup nightmare for defenses. He is too fast and too tall for linebackers and defensive backs to cover. Add in one of the best quarterbacks in Drew Brees, and you have an elite receiving threat.
Catching 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns, he ranked 13th in the league in catches, 15th in yards and first in touchdowns. The next best tight end was 18th in catches (83), 30th in yards (917) and third in touchdowns (13).
It has been this way since 2011 where he broke onto the season in his second year after being drafted in the third round in 2010. Teams are still trying to figure out how to stop him, using cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers all to varying degrees of success. The plans that have worked have involved being physical with Graham and using multiple defenders to cover him.
In an offense with Brees at quarterback and Sean Payton’s offensive mind at head coach, Graham will continue to put up stats that have never been seen from tight ends before. It was essential for the Saints to re-sign their two-time All-Pro tight end and it was obvious the only way that was going to happen was to make him the highest-paid in the league. Graham is well worth the money as he is the clear-cut best tight end in the game and is still only 27-years old.
In the other big move of the week, the 49ers signed Staley to a two-year contract extension to keep the 29-year old (he turns 30 in late August) in San Francisco through the 2019 season.
At this point, the monetary terms of the contract are not known. Considering that he is one of the better left tackles in the league, it is likely that the contract pays him substantial money.
Before these two years where added to his contract, there were four years left on his deal worth about $21.65 million.
Seeing that he will be 35-years old when his contract ends, there is a good change that this contract will be the last one that he has as a professional football player. The goal of the contract definitely is to keep him as a 49er for the rest of his career, allowing him to stay with the franchise for his entire career.
Drafted by the 49ers with the 28th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, he has started every game he has played in (98 regular season games) and missed only 14 games in seven seasons. As a rookie he played right tackle, but switched over to the blindside for his second season.
This past season, Pro Football Focus graded him as the fifth best offensive tackle in the league with high grades in both pass protection and run blocking.
His best season came in 2012 where Pro Football Focus graded him as the number one offensive tackle in the NFL thanks to a run blocking grade that was the best at his position by a wide margin.
Two other 49ers players––tight end Vernon Davis and guard Alex Boone––are looking for new contracts, but neither have showed up for minicamp and offseason workouts while Staley was there. It appears the 49ers are sending a message to Davis and Boone with Staley’s contract.
While it is a bit surprising to see Staley get a new contract instead of Davis or Boone, Staley is one of the best left tackles in the game and was severely underpaid. (Before this extension, he was the 13th highest-paid left tackle in the NFL.) The only unknown here is how his play will drop off as he gets older, but offensive lineman age well for the most part so Staley and the 49ers should be fine.
The Buffalo Bills sign LB Stevenson Sylvester.
The Buffalo Bills cut TE Mike Caussin.
The Dallas Cowboys release QB Kyle Orton.
The Dallas Cowboys sign TE Dallas Walker.
The Detroit Lions sign RB George Winn.
The Detroit Lions cut G D.J. Morrell.
The Detroit Lions sign G Garrett Reynolds.
The Indianapolis Colts sign WR Aaron Burks.
The Indianapolis Colts waive WR LaVon Brazill.
The Indianapolis Colts sign G Chad Anderson.
The Indianapolis Colts waive DE Gannon Conway.
The Kansas City Chiefs cut DT Risean Broussard from injured reserve.
New England Patriots DT Armond Armstead has announced his retirement from the NFL.
The New England Patriots cut WR Reese Wiggins.
The New England Patriots cut WR Jeremy Johnson.
The Washington Redskins sign FB Stephen Campbell.