Packers cut veteran WR Jordy Nelson, will sign TE Jimmy Graham
Packers release Nelson, add Graham
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers will have to find a new favorite target because the Green Bay Packers have released Jordy Nelson. They are also adding tight end Jimmy Graham on a three-year deal worth roughly $30 million, sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Graham has been one of the most prolific tight ends of his era, catching 69 touchdown passes since he entered the league with the New Orleans Saints as a third-round pick in 2010. That total ranks second among tight ends and third among all pass-catchers during that span, behind Rob Gronkowski (76) and Dez Bryant (73).
Graham had 10 receiving touchdowns last season, most among tight ends and tied for second most leaguewide.
Nelson and Rodgers hold the Packers' record for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo with 65. They broke Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman's record of 58 during the 2016 season.
Rodgers wrote on his Instagram account that Nelson's departure represented "a sad day and the toughest part of this business."
Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me. No teammate exemplified what it means to be a packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning. #leader #brother #friend #baller #loyal #champion #legacy #intact #stillcanplayball #backshoulder #1stSBTD
A post shared by Aaron Rodgers (@aaronrodgers12) on
Nelson, 32, was scheduled to make $10.25 million in salary and bonuses in the final season of a four-year, $39 million contract. By cutting Nelson, the Packers save $10,218,750 in salary-cap space.
It's the first major roster cut by new general manager Brian Gutekunst, who replaced Ted Thompson in January.
"We cannot thank Jordy enough for all that he has given the Green Bay Packers and our community for the past 10 years," Gutekunst said. "He has been an exemplary professional and teammate and greatly contributed to our success. Jordy will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. We wish Jordy, his wife Emily, and the rest of their family all the best."
Publicly, Nelson said late last season that he would be open to taking a pay cut to finish his career in Green Bay. He said at the time he wanted to play two to four more years. A source said he told teammates during the season that he was opposed to a pay cut and might consider retirement if the Packers released him. However, a source told Schefter that Nelson wants to continue to play.
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To take some of the sting out of losing Jordy Nelson, Jimmy Graham needs to find a similar chemistry that the wide receiver had with Aaron Rodgers. Story
The Packers were in the market for a tight end after the Martellus Bennett signing from last offseason blew up on them.
After negotiations broke down with Jared Cook, the Packers turned to Bennett. He signed a three-year, $21 million deal but played in only seven games before he was waived with the designation that he failed to disclose a medical condition (shoulder) in what proved to be an ugly divorce.
He was claimed off waivers by the Patriots and played in two more games before he went on injured reserve. The Packers are still trying to recoup part of Bennett's $6.3 million signing bonus; they lost a grievance but have filed an appeal.
Packers tight ends combined for only two touchdown catches last season -- tied for the fewest in the NFL. The Packers and Rodgers have operated best with a receiving tight end, dating to Jermichael Finley and including Cook.
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Graham's three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks were a mixed bag. In 2017, he caught 10 touchdown passes -- all in the red zone -- and last season ranked tops among tight ends and tied for second among all pass-catchers for receiving scores.
Outside of his touchdowns, however, Graham suffered a decline in his production. His 520 receiving yards represented a significant drop-off from 2016, when he had 923 receiving yards. And dropped passes were also an issue as Graham tied for the second-most in the NFL with seven in 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Nelson saw his production drop last season after Rodgers broke his collarbone. To that point, he had six touchdowns in the first five games of the season, but he never caught another one. He finished with 53 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns.
Just one season before, he was the NFL's comeback player of the year when he caught 97 passes for 1,257 and 14 touchdowns after he missed the 2015 season because of a torn ACL.
Nelson ranks third in team history in catches (550), fifth in receiving yards (7,848) and second in touchdown catches (69).
After Davante Adams signed a four-year, $58 million contract extension in December, it seemed likely the Packers would have a hard time keeping both Nelson and Randall Cobb. For now, Cobb remains despite a $9.5 million salary-cap charge for this season.
ESPN's Brady Henderson contributed to this report.