Yes, Drew Brees hopes to retire as a Saint. Tight end Jimmy Graham probably hoped to do the same.
But Graham is gone, and Brees talked on Thursday about the trade that sent Graham to Seattle, only one season into a four-year, $40 million contract.
“I think it shocked all of us,” Brees told WWL Radio, via ESPN.com. “A lot of crazy things happened, though, during the course of free agency for a lot of different teams. Unfortunately, you’ve been around long enough, you see some of these things happen at times. If anything it shows the confidence our organization has in the young players, especially the young skill players on offense, just feeling like those are guys that now have a chance to step up and fill a big void and fill a big role and continue to progress forward.”
That doesn’t mean Brees won’t miss Graham.
“Jimmy was like a brother to me,” Brees said. “He was close to so many guys on the team. That part of it is something that people lose track of. As a football player, he’s a rare, rare talent. Not having a guy like that on the field with you is a difference-maker. Just the relationships that you build in the locker room, that’s really the part that’s the hardest, just because you’re used to being around each other and the way your families do things together. You build a relationship and you become very close. But then, things happen and all of the sudden you’re on a different team. It doesn’t change the way we feel about each other. We’re just not going to see each other all that often.”
While that may spark some to suggest that Brees has a problem with the departure of Graham, keep in mind that Brees was pragmatic last year about Graham’s absence while wrangling with the team over his franchise-tag designation.
“Look at our numbers over the last eight years,” Brees said at the time. “We’ve had a lot of different guys in there. Jimmy’s only been here four years. He’s only been here half the time. We were putting up some pretty big numbers before he got here, and we’ve been putting up some big numbers since he’s been here. Hey, we do what we do. It’s nice when you can have guys like Jimmy, and obviously he’s a big part of our offense. If he’s in there, we’re going to try to get him the ball. We’re game-planning ways to get him the ball, ways to put him in the best position to succeed. But if he’s not, somebody else is going to get those touches. We’ll put those guys in position.”
That’s ultimately one of the reasons why the Saints traded Graham. They believe they can move the ball without him. Also, they believe there’s no real correlation between Graham’s success and the team’s success.
Ultimately, it’ll be one of several interesting experiments for NFL teams that have made bold additions and subtractions for 2015.