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The buzz surrounding a possible Jimmy Graham-New Orleans Saints reunion picked up on Monday.

New Orleans was the most popular free-agent destination for Graham in a poll of ESPN NFL insiders. Then a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said Graham isn’t expected to be back with the Seattle Seahawks, and the Saints should be among several teams interested.

That led to an excited response from Saints running back Mark Ingram. Last week, Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was openly courting Graham to come back to New Orleans.

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How realistic is the idea?

That’s hard to say, given that Graham and the Saints didn’t part on the best of terms when Graham was traded to Seattle in 2015. Graham tweeted to former teammate Akiem Hicks later that year that he should “feel blessed u got out of there.”

The relationship apparently turned south when Graham and the Saints battled over his contract in 2014, including an arbitration hearing over whether he should be considered a tight end or wide receiver.

I have not been able to glean from any sources yet whether a reunion is possible. But I also have not heard anyone suggest that a lingering rift could prevent it. Both sides should definitely be interested, given that neither has been as effective without the other.

2018 NFL Free Agency
Kirk Cousins. Jimmy Graham. Andrew Norwell. This class could get wild. Here’s everything to know heading into free agency, which begins March 14.

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Not only did Graham’s production dip in Seattle (partly due to a torn patellar tendon), but the Saints also have not been able to replace him successfully in their offense, despite spending big on Coby Fleener in free agency in 2016.

Last year, the Saints ranked last in the NFL in tight end receiving yardage (476) and 31st in tight end receptions (45), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Saints still ranked fifth in the NFL in passing yards overall. But the lack of a go-to tight end really hurt them on third downs, in which they finished a stunning 19th in the NFL with a conversion rate of 37.6 percent.

That’s why I have tight end ranked No. 2 in my position-by-position breakdown of the Saints’ offseason needs. If they don’t sign Graham, they could pursue the Philadelphia Eagles’ Trey Burton, the Cincinnati Bengals’ Tyler Eifert or a premium draft pick, among other options:

Current depth chart:

Coby Fleener. Age 29, signed through 2020. 2018 salary and bonuses: $6.4 million ($3.4 million has already been guaranteed). 2018 salary-cap number: $8 million.

Josh Hill. Age 27, signed through 2018. 2018 salary and bonuses: $2 million. 2018 salary-cap number: $2.833 million.

Michael Hoomanawanui. Age 29, signed through 2018. 2018 salary and bonuses: $1.6 million. 2018 salary-cap number: $1.933 million.

John Phillips. Age 30, unrestricted free agent.

Garrett Griffin. Turned 24 on Sunday, scheduled to become exclusive-rights free agent in 2019. 2018 salary and bonuses: $555,000. 2018 salary-cap number: $555,000.

Clay Harbor. Age 30, unrestricted free agent.

Alex Ellis. Age 25, scheduled to become exclusive-rights free agent in 2020. 2018 salary and bonuses: $555,000. 2018 salary-cap number: $555,000.

When: April 26-28
Where: Arlington, Texas
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Graham put up some outrageous numbers in his five years in New Orleans, including 99 catches for 1,310 yards in 2011 and 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013.

But he comes with more question marks now that he is 31 years old and has battled injuries and inconsistency the past three years in Seattle (57 catches for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns last season; 65-923-6 in 2016; 48-605-2 in 11 games before the knee injury in 2015).

Plus, Graham was never a standout blocker. And the Saints deemed him expendable for a reason in 2015: deciding that their offense would be fine without such a major investment, while the defense and offensive line needed more help (just like their decision to trade away receiver Brandin Cooks last year).

The Saints looked smart in 2015, when veteran tight end Benjamin Watson had a career year (74-825-6). But they haven’t gotten anywhere close to the production they expected from Fleener over the past two years (a total of 72-926-5 in 27 games before his season ended with a concussion last year).
It’s possible that the Saints could consider releasing Fleener this year, especially if they invest heavily in another free agent or draft pick. Although they have already guaranteed $3.4, they could save $3 million by releasing him.

Hill and Hoomanawanui, meanwhile, have both been very solid and versatile backups for the Saints, who are good blockers and decent pass-catchers. But they’re both better in part-time roles, and both of them are heading into the final year of their contracts.

Previous rankings:

No. 3 Linebackers

No. 4 Cornerbacks

No. 5 Receivers

No. 6 Safeties

No. 7 Defensive tackles

No. 8 Quarterbacks

No. 9 Offensive tackles

No. 10 Guards/centers

No. 11 Running backs

No. 12 Specialists

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A player who wins Super Bowl MVP honors doesn’t often find himself on a different team the next season.

It has happened before but not recently. The last quarterback to lead his team to a championship and sign elsewhere in the following free-agency period was Trent Dilfer, who won Super Bowl XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens and then joined the Seattle Seahawks in 2001. The Ravens actually got rid of both of their quarterbacks after the 2000 season, additionally cutting Tony Banks, who was benched in favor of Dilfer.

Nick Foles faces a uncommon situation this offseason. After leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, the quarterback could become a hot trade prospect for teams willing to make executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman an offer the team can’t refuse. Foles, who was brought in to back up Carson Wentz last offseason, is set to make $7 million with Philadelphia in 2018. But with a roster that’s roughly $10 million over the salary cap and Wentz expected to return from injury, Philadelphia could decide to trade Foles and earn even more in the process — perhaps a first-round draft pick.

One team that might be interested in making Foles part of the equation as it decides its future at quarterback is the Minnesota Vikings.
Attempting to acquire Nick Foles in a trade has merit for Minnesota, with all three of its quarterbacks set to become free agents. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
The offseason is officially underway for all 32 teams after Super Bowl LII wrapped up in Minneapolis, and the Vikings are still searching to fulfill their top priority of hiring an offensive coordinator. General manager Rick Spielman said last week that they hope to interview “maybe one or two more” for the position, which is presumably why there hasn’t been a hire yet after four interviews that took place beginning the Friday after the Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game.

One reason for the holdup, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is that Minnesota is interested in talking with Philadelphia quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, but cannot do so until Feb. 14, which is 10 days from the end of the Eagles’ season.

If DeFilippo ends up being the guy coach Mike Zimmer, Spielman and the Wilf family want to bring on as the next offensive coordinator, how appropriate might it be for him to bring his Super Bowl-winning quarterback with him via a trade?

Even if the Vikings decide to go elsewhere with their offensive coordinator search, keeping Foles in the picture makes sense.

How the Vikings decide who will be their quarterback in 2018 will play into the likelihood of Minnesota contending for a Super Bowl title again next season. The clarity of the Vikings’ quarterback picture is like a badly developed Polaroid. On one hand, Minnesota has three quarterbacks set to be free agents in March that it could choose from. Case Keenum leading the Vikings to a 13-3 record and NFC title-game appearance seems like the safest bet with the questions surrounding the knees of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford, but who’s to say Minnesota can’t find a way to bring back two of their three current QBs? And what if the Vikings decide to clean house? It would make just as much sense to throw Foles into the mix as it would Kirk Cousins, who unlike the Eagles’ quarterback, hasn’t won a playoff game.

In three postseason victories, Foles completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 971 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. The argument that a team can win a championship with a “system quarterback” is valid, as is the case with Foles’ success within the parameters of the run-pass option. But the throws he made to Alshon Jeffery, Corey Clement and Zach Ertz against the New England Patriots — all for touchdowns — showed that he’s more than a system QB.
An argument about Foles’ past ups and downs will certainly surface. After recording a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013, Foles threw seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions the following season.

So it raises the question: If the Vikings choose to look outside of their roster for next year’s QB, is it too early to go all-in on someone like Foles, especially since Minnesota is looking for a long-term solution, not a quick fix, at the position?

“That’s the ultimate plan, whether at the quarterback position or any position, you’re hoping that you’re making that decision for the long haul, not for a short-term solution,” Spielman said. “But the one thing that you can’t predict is you can’t predict injuries.”

The Eagles winning a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback who was thrust into the mix much later in the season than when Keenum took over for Bradford points to the fact that it indeed can be done. In the right system, with the right coaching, Philadelphia got the best out of Foles, who would have arguably equal the playmakers in Minnesota as he does currently.