METAIRIE, La. – Daniel Graham figured after 10 years, his NFL career wasn’t finished.
But the tight end wasn’t going to settle for playing for anybody; he wanted to be a part of a contender.
In the middle of moving houses in Atlanta this past week, Graham’s belief was rewarded.
The New Orleans Saints needed a tight end with a blocking background and experience, one to bring some maturity to that group’s meeting room and Graham, with 142 games worth of experience, fit the bill.
“They said they wanted a veteran tight end, someone who is a good blocker,” Graham said. “They gave me a call. I was free on the market and they gave me a call and I’m just excited for this opportunity to make this team.”
In 10 seasons with the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans, Graham has played in 142 games, 17 more than all of the tight ends already with the Saints combined. He has only 224 catches for 2,490 yards and 25 touchdowns, but his main value isn’t necessarily in the passing game.
At least, that’s not what the Saints were interested in when they made the call.
“He can block the linebacker that is over him and that’s under defense and he can block the end over end that’s over defense,” acting head coach Joe Vitt said. “He can see that barrier and the power running game behind him. There is usually movement on the ball and he can displace some linemen to the second level also.”
Despite not being on a roster to begin training camp, Graham (6-foot-3, 257 pounds) didn’t give up hope.
He maintained his conditioning and continued to lift weights this offseason. As a decade-long member of the NFL, he realized that just because he wasn’t with a team yet didn’t mean he wouldn’t end up with on.
“I didn’t give up,” Graham said. “In this league, a lot of people go down. I was just trying to stay ready if I got a phone call. I knew I could get a call.”
Now with the Saints, Graham knows his role isn’t to be the standout tight end making plays in the open field.
That’s Jimmy Graham’s role. And in one week with the team, Daniel Graham has already seen how athletic the young tight end is. The elder Graham’s idea is to help his younger counterpart grow into a complete player.
“He’s a gifted athlete,” Daniel Graham said. “I hope this year that I’m here that I can give him a lot of knowledge at the tight end position, help him become a better blocker and help him overall become a good tight end in this league.”