One of the main reasons the Bears pursued and signed veteran tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency is how well he fits in their offense.
"I think it's a good example where we are all connected to a vision with a player on our team," general manager Ryan Pace said last Friday. "You start with the physical evaluation on the player. He's a guy we know well. But then you have to fit with our offensive scheme.
"And I just think there are a lot of discussions on how to maximize Jimmy Graham in this offense, and that's with [coach] Matt [Nagy] and all of our offensive coaches and our scouts. We're all really excited about him being a Bear and how we are going to maximize him."
Pace worked for the Saints in 2010 when they drafted Graham in the third round and remained with the team throughout the tight end's five seasons in New Orleans. In January 2015, Pace left to become Bears general manager and Graham was traded to the Seahawks two months later.
Graham blossomed into a star in his second NFL season in 2011, earning the first of five career Pro Bowl trips after catching 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. In four seasons from 2011-14, he averaged 89 receptions, 1,099 yards and 11.5 TDs per year.
Although Graham's output declined the past two seasons with the Packers, Nagy is confident the 33-year-old can thrive at a vital position in the Bears offense.
"We all saw a lot of the same things," Nagy said. "And what was exciting is when you look at this, you have to be able to look at … how could he or how does he fit into what you want to do? There's a lot more to that than just looking at numbers, the stats that you see and where he's at.
"He's had a hell of a career, and with that he's also grown older. But at the same time, when you look at the stuff that he's doing maybe when he's not catching the football, or maybe when he's not making a block, you see him within the play doing something that you like and then you visualize that with what you can do with him and what conceptually what you do and how it fits, and that's the exciting part.
"When you talk to him as well you understand the knowledge that he has for the game. He's very, very motivated right now, which I love, and so it's just a fit for us of a big-sized, 6-6 playmaker that you can get some mismatches with. And I know me personally I'm very, very looking forward to being able to put him in some great situations."
Graham has been very durable throughout his NFL career, playing in 15 or 16 games in nine of his 10 years in the league. He has appeared in all 16 contests seven times, including each of the past four seasons. He hasn't missed a game since 2015 when he sat out the final five contests with a knee injury.
Graham bolsters a need position for the Bears. In 2019, their tight ends combined to produce just 46 receptions for 416 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time since 1970 the Bears did not have a tight end record at least 100 receiving yards in a season. It certainly didn't help that the top three players on the depth chart—Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker—all were placed on injured reserve.
With the Bears signing Graham and Demetrius Harris this offseason, they now have 10 tight ends under contract. The others are Braunecker, Burton, Shaheen, Darion Clark, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Dax Raymond and Eric Saubert.
"We know we have a lot of tight ends on the roster now and that's something we are working through," Pace said. "We know we have some decisions we have to make across the board at that position. We aren't there yet, but we are definitely happy that Jimmy is in this offense, and also that Demetrius Harris is in this offense; that's a good addition for us as well."
Take a look at new Bears Tight End Jimmy Graham in action. A five-time pro bowler, Graham has 649 receptions, 7,883 receiving yards, and 74 receiving touchdowns in his 10 seasons between Green Bay, Seattle, and New Orleans.