Clary: Seattle Seahawks Wasting Jimmy Graham's Superhuman Abilities

The Seattle Seahawks shocked the football world back in March when they agreed to send starting center Max Unger and a first round pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.

However, since that day almost eight months ago, what has been even more shocking than the Saints willingness to trade away an elite talent like Graham has been the Seahawks inability to maximize Graham's abilities.

In his four-year stint in The Big Easy, Graham worked his way into the conversation of the NFL's best player by transforming how the tight end position is played.

He rarely blocked, didn't put his hand in the dirt all that often and he pretty much operated as an enormous, muscular wide receiver who created matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.

But for some reason, when Seattle made the decision to trade for the 6'7", 265-pound monster from Miami, they didn't complement the move with the obvious decision of keeping Graham in a similar role.

Which is why, seven games into the 2015 season, Graham has not come close to matching the level of production that we have come to expect out of him.

Seattle's style of play has not allowed Graham to maintain the excellent level of play that he established in New Orleans. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Graham's statline leaves much to be desired: he has caught 31 passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns.

Two touchdowns! This is a guy who averaged nearly 12 scores per year from 2011-2014 and was the focal point of one of football's most dynamic aerial attacks. Now, though, he looks completely different.

And it's not just because he's wearing blue and bright green instead of black and gold. As a Seahawk, he's been utilized completely different than in the past.

Saints head coach Sean Payton was adept at moving Graham all over the field, creating mismatches for the defense. In 2014, he lined up as a traditional tight end only 37 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This year? The number is almost double. Wow.

Several reports indicated that Graham himself was frustrated with his diminished role, and with good reason.

Remember, this is a guy who ran so many routes and caught so many passes that there was widespread debate on whether or not it is even fair to consider him a tight end. While an arbitrator did eventually rule that Graham was indeed a tight end, the fact that it was even brought up epitomizes Graham's style of play.

The Seahawks offense is much more run-heavy than the Saints, but it just doesn't make any sense to completely change Graham's role, especially when it is obvious what type of offense in which he excels.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Obviously Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bevell don't operate using philosophy.

Pete Carroll hasn't made throwing to Graham much of a priority so far this season. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

And lining up as a regular tight end wouldn't be a problem if he was still going out for passes and acting as the focal part of the passing game. But he has been blocking more, running fewer routes and compiling fewer targets.

When Graham went out on a route in New Orleans, Drew Brees targeted him 26.3 percent of the time, per Pro Football Focus. In Seattle, that total has dropped under 20 percent.

So he has gone out for fewer passes and received a considerably lower percent of targets on those routes, which is a big reason why he hasn't been as dynamic as the Jimmy Graham fans grew to love and defenses feared.

Side note: Why the heck is Graham being asked to block in Seattle? This is a guy who was regularly taken off the field in New Orleans on running plays in favor of better blocking tight ends. Graham is a pass catcher, first and foremost, and should be treated like one.

Furthermore, some of the games that Graham has had as a Seahawk have been downright embarrassing.

In Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, a 27-17 loss, Graham caught one pass for 11 yards. He was targeted only twice.

And while Graham has had a few solid outings - he snagged eight passes for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Detroit Lions and 12 for 140 yards against the Carolina Panthers - some games he just hasn't been involved.

He has totaled fewer than 35 receiving yards on five different occasions this season, which is absolutely mind-boggling considering Graham's talent.

And it's not like the Seahawks possess an electric offense and haven't needed their star tight end; their record sits at a pedestrian 3-4 and their offense ranks 18th in scoring. They could use an explosive tight end like Graham to make a tangible impact every week.

The Seahawks know it, too. Seemingly every game where Graham was not featured as much as one would think he should be, either Carroll, Bevell or Russell Wilson would address the issue.​

​"He's a great, great football player," Wilson said after the Week 2 loss to the Packers, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. "So we've got to try to find ways to get him the football."

"He did well in the game, but we could use [him] more," Carroll told Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times. "...we need to get more activity out of him."

Well, yeah, that seems like common sense at this point.

"We're moving the ball around," Bevell said, per Jenks. "We’re not just going to sit here and throw him 5,000 balls."

Why not? If you have one of the most gifted tight ends in NFL history at your disposal, you should make sure to maximize his abilities.

It's not what the Seahawks are doing, and it's a bit confusing. Carroll is a phenomenal coach and he surely knows what he is doing, but getting the football to Graham early and often should be a priority moving forward.

Just imagine Graham playing the same position that he did in NOLA; basically a giant slot receiver. He might even be better than he was as Saint, considering that the Seahawks still have Marshawn Lynch to pose a legitimate running threat, something the Saints didn't always have.

If that was the case, there is little question that the Seahawks would be thriving.

As it is, plenty are doubting whether or not the Seahawks actually got out-negotiated when they made that ground-breaking trade last spring.

VAVEL Logo