Contract Forecast: Jimmy Graham
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Contract Forecast: Jimmy Graham

UPDATE: Off to a torrid start in 2013, and rumored to be "in discussion" with the Saints regarding his extension we'll re-evaluate Graham, incorporating projected stats for 2013 based on his 3 weeks of production thus far.

One of the more prominent names still left on the 2014 free agency list has to be Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who despite a bit of a down season in 2012 (fantasy-wise), is entering the final year of his rookie contract with plenty of expectations to cash in. While reports have been swirling for months regarding intentions and possible negotiation standards for a potential new deal, the recent news not only caught our attention - but it forced us to put together the piece you're reading here.

Multiple sources are reporting that not only is Jimmy Graham seeking a maximum long-term extension, but in negotiating one, he'd like to be treated as a wide receiver. This brings in a new wrinkle to our current forecasting format. What you'll read below is a breakdown of Jimmy Graham vs. his Tight End counterparts, and Jimmy Graham vs. what we determined to be comparable Wide Receivers. (Suddenly have the urge to speak in the first person and watch an episode of Seinfield).

As per our usual forecasts, we'll compare previous contract information, and compare Graham statistically in a variety of receiving categories. The end result will be the average of our mathematical findings as a Tight End, and as a Wide Receiver. Enjoy the ride.

Quick Points

  •  His $1.48 million cap hit for 2013 ranks 34th among Tight Ends, 70th among Wide Receivers.
  •  Only 10 wide receivers were targeted more than Jimmy Graham in 2012
  •  His 20 touchdowns over the past two years is second only to Rob Gronkowski.

Comparable Tight Ends
We'll start by taking a look at comparable tight ends - in value to their team, similar in age, and statistical production.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Rob Gronkowski 6 $53 million (ext) $8,833,333 22
Aaron Hernandez 5 $40 million $8,000,000 22
Jason Witten 5 $37 million $7,400,000 29
Vernon Davis 5 $38.6 million $7,736,200 27
Averages 5.25 $42,170,250 $7,992,383 25

Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.

View the list of Top Average Paid Tight Ends in the NFL

Because Graham (26) is older than Gronkowski/Hernandez and younger than Witten/Davis at the time of their deals, we'll adjust the above contracts respectively to his age by adding/subtracting from the overall years to make each variable player 26 years old. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
5 $ 42,195,649 $ 12,152,347
Statistical Analyzations, Prime Percentage
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the two years prior to signing their second contract by showing Games Played, Receptions, Receptions/Game, Receptions/Year, Receiving Yards, Receiving Yards/Game, Targets, and Receiving TD. The results will provide is with an indication of his "prime" value prior to signing a potential extension.
Player Games Rec/Game Rec/Year Rec Yards/Year Targets/Year Rec TD/Year
Jason Witten
(2009-10, DAL)
16 5.9 94 1016 126.5 5.5
Aaron Hernandez
(2010-11, NE)
14 4.43 66 641 88.5 6.5
Rob Gronkowski
(2010-11, NE)
16 4.1 66 936.5 91.5 13.5
Vernon Davis
(2008-09, SF)
16 3.4 54.5 661.5 88.5 7.5
Averages 15.5 4.45 69.125 813.75 98.75 8.25
Jimmy Graham
(2012-13, NO)
15.5 6.7 103.5 1445 169.5 12.5
Difference 0% 150.31% 149.73% 140.83% 171.65% 151.52%
Average Prime % 44%
The result is a Prime Percentage of 44%, a huge number to pull out when comparing Graham to his colleagues. It's an immediate sign that Graham's request to be considered as more than just a tight end is relevant on paper. We'll factor this prime percentage into our overall regression figures below.
Comparable Wide Receivers
Now let's introduce a set of wide receivers who meet the criteria in comparison to Graham. While this is an extremely arguable set, we used factors such as Targets, Size, Age, and Scoring to determine our receivers.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Dez Bryant 5 $67,164,486** $13,432,897** 24
Larry Fitzgerald 8 $113,000,000 $14,125,000 27
Marques Colston 5 $36,300,000 $7,260,000 27
Brandon Marshall 5 $44,779,000 $8,955,800 26
Averages 5.75 $65,310,871 $10,943,424 26

**Note: The figures for Dez Bryant have been acquired from a previous Spotrac Premium forecast. Bryant is one of the more comparable WRs to Graham, so using these figures were vital to our analysis.

View the list of Top Average PaidWide Receivers in the NFL

Because Graham (26) is older than Bryant and younger than Fitzgerald/Colston/Marshall at the time of their deals, we'll adjust the above contracts respectively to his age by adding/subtracting from the overall years to make each variable player 26 years old. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
5 $60,805, 466 $12,161,090
Statistical Analyzations, Prime Percentage
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the two years prior to signing their second contract by showing Games Played, Receptions, Receptions/Game, Receptions/Year, Receiving Yards, Receiving Yards/Game, Targets, and Receiving TD. The results will provide is with an indication of his "prime" value prior to signing a potential extension.
Player Games Rec/Game Rec/Year Rec Yards/Year Targets/Year Rec TD/Year
Dez Bryant
(2011-12, DAL)
15.5 5 77.5 1155 118.5 10.5
Larry Fitzgerald
(2009-2010, ARI)
16 5.68 69.65 1114.5 157.5 9.5
Brandon Marshall
(2008-2009, DEN)
15 6.83 102.5 1192.5 168.5 8
Marques Colston
(2010-2011, NO)
14.5 5.65 82 1083 120 7.5
Averages 15.25 5.79 82.9 1136.25 141.125 8.8
Jimmy Graham
(2012-13, NO)
15.5 6.7 103.5 1445 169.5 12.5
Difference 101.6% 115.72% 124.83% 127.17% 120.11% 140.85%
Average Prime % 18.62%
The result is a Prime Percentage of 18.62%, not nearly as large as his statisicaly comparison to the tight ends - but still impressive that he's even outperforming elite wide receivers in most cases. The only stat really setting him apart from the others appears to be the Receptions/Year, where he's consistently come close to the 100 mark throughout his career. We'll factor this prime percentage into our overall regression figures below.
Guaranteed Money
To generate a fair percentage of guaranteed money drawn from Graham's new deal, we'll compile a list of both the Tight Ends and Wide Receivers used as variables, and run a linear regression of their guaranteed percentages.
Player Value True Guarantees % Guaranteed
Jason Witten $37,000,000 $12,500,000 33.8%
Aaron Hernandez $40,000,000 $12,500,000 31.3%
Rob Gronkowksi $53,000,000 $11,750,000 22.2%
Vernon Davis $38,681,000 $18,856,000 48.7%
Dez Bryant $67,164,486 $22,700,000 33.8%
Larry Fitzgerald $113,000,000 $20,000,000 17.7%
Brandon Marshall $44,779,000 $12,500,000 27,9%
Marques Colston $36,300,000 $17,900,000 49.3%
Adjusted Regression 33%
Results
Length of the Contract
In both of our positional comparisons the average length of the contract resulted to be just above 5 years. At 26 years old a 5 year contract would bring Graham to an unwritten but seemingly important "31" - a cutoff age for money positions in the NFL. We'll keep the deal at 5 to stay on the safer side of father time.

Value of the Contract
Here's where this contract forecast comes together like no other we've performed to date. In using variables from two positions (Tight Ends, Wide Receivers) we now have two base linear regression contracts and two Prime Percentage figures to use in adjusting properly. We'll multiply our percentages to each base contract, and take the average of the two numbers to output our formal prediction. Let's show our work:
TE Adjusted Contract: $42,195,649 * .44 Prime % = $ 60,761,734
WR Adjusted Contract: $60,805,466 * .1862 Prime % = $ 72,127,444
Spotrac's (NEW) Prediction: 5 years, $66,444,589

  •  Average Annual Salary: $13,288,917
  •  Guaranteed Money: $21,926,000

View our intiial prediction for Jimmy Graham's Extension

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