The Seattle Seahawks have shown in recent years that they're willing to admit when something isn't working out.
Just last season, after cornerback Cary Williams started the first 10 games, the coaches determined they wanted to go in a different direction even though they had given him $7 million guaranteed months earlier.
There's a case to be made this offseason that the Seahawks should consider moving on from Jimmy Graham. In five games without him last season, the offense averaged 31.2 points per game, second in the NFL. Graham suffered a serious ruptured patellar tendon injury that is difficult to recover from. And releasing the 29-year-old tight end would create $9 million in cap space for 2016 and $10 million in 2017.
But all offseason, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have consistently shot down the idea that the Graham experiment could end after one season in Seattle.
"I communicated with him yesterday, and he seems to be doing really well," Carroll said at the NFL owners meetings. "He’s excited about the process, and he’s getting through it. This is a big challenge, but he’s got a great attitude about it. He’s a worker. He’s a guy that likes to work out and bust his tail to get right. ... He is making great progress. He’ll be back in town in the next couple of weeks, and we’ll really get a great assessment of that, but everything seems to be going really well."
Graham averaged 55 receiving yards per game in 2015, eighth among tight ends. He totaled 48 catches for 605 yards and two touchdowns. Carroll is OK with the first two numbers, but wants to see a bump from the third.
"We wanted to get him the ball in the red zone more," Carroll said. "We didn’t do as good of a job there as we thought. By the time he played eight games with us, whatever it was , we would have thought he’d have more touchdown catches. So that was part of maybe developing his impact with our team. But it was just a matter of timing, he and Russell [Wilson] being together and executing better, both of those guys doing better to function at a higher level. That’s just the natural progression of developing a rapport with a player, particularly of this style."
The narrative that the Seahawks' offense took off when Graham went down is not accurate. In the final three games Graham played, the Seahawks averaged 33.3 points per game. The offensive turnaround was about adjustments the Seahawks made after the bye, along with the offensive line improving in the second half of the season. It had little to do with Graham being sidelined.
Carroll has said that the team hopes to have Graham ready by the start of the regular season. It's possible that the injury limits him in the early part of the season. It's also possible that he has trouble ever again reaching his old form.
But it's clear that the Seahawks are going to give Graham every chance to show he can get right and contribute. There's a reason they acquired him from the New Orleans Saints, and the belief within the organization is that Graham can still play a major role on offense in the next couple years.
"He cares as much as any player we have ever coached," Carroll said. "He was willing to work at it, and so was Russell, so it was just a matter of time before they would hit like Russell did with Doug [Baldwin] last year. That was a great illustration of what chemistry is all about for a quarterback and a receiver, and I think that was on the way. It’s going to happen. We felt we saw all of the examples of that that we needed to see."