Packers: Three questions facing Jimmy Graham in 2018

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jimmy Graham /
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3. Will he be an upgrade over Jordy Nelson?

With the 53-man roster and salary cap, every move an NFL team makes necessitates a corresponding move. Though it wasn’t quite a one-for-one swap, the signing of Jimmy Graham this offseason was largely responsible for the release of Jordy Nelson.

So perhaps the biggest question facing Graham and Brian Gutekunst is whether or not Graham can be the upgrade over Nelson that he was brought in to be.

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Of course, they’re different. Graham will never have Nelson’s body control on the sideline and is a bit slower, and Nelson does not have Graham’s catch radius or tackle-breaking ability.

When Nelson lost a bit of suddenness, though, he transitioned into a deadly red zone and slot receiver. He began making more and more contested catches, relying on excellent hands and an exceptional connection with Aaron Rodgers.

Graham will be counted on to fill some of the same roles—most notably as a big slot receiver and a red zone weapon.

Graham’s contract is set to pay him $30 million over three years, while Nelson was scheduled to have a cap hit of $12.5 million. Nelson signed for significantly less than Graham (two years, $15 million in Oakland). The money implies that Graham should be an upgrade over what Nelson would have brought to the team in 2018.

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If Graham is able to make up for Nelson’s lost production and then some, the Packers’ offense is likely to return to one of the league’s best.