Max Unger exits as Seahawks make trade for Jimmy Graham

If the 2014 season proved anything for the Seahawks, it’s that they needed more production from the tight end position and also that they could win without center Max Unger.

The Seahawks addressed both issues Tuesday, on the first day of the NFL free-agency period, by agreeing to acquire Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints for center Max Unger. The trade, which is contingent on Graham passing a physical on Wednesday, also includes the Seahawks giving the Saints their first-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft, while the Seahawks will get a fourth-rounder from the Saints.

"We would like to thank Max for his leadership and the role he has played in helping establish our current championship culture," Seahawks Executive VP/General Manager John Schneider said in a release issued by the team. "He is a former captain and has been a respected and valued leader for our consecutive Super Bowl teams. We wish him nothing but the best as he continues his career. We are thrilled to have an opportunity to acquire a player of Jimmy Graham's caliber, and will remain relentless in our pursuit of sustaining that championship culture."

It marks the third consecutive year that the Seahawks will not have a first-round draft choice. They traded out of the round on draft day last year and used their 2013 first-round pick as part of the trade to acquire Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings.

The Seahawks acquired Pro Bowl/All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade with the New Orleans Saints.

The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham was very productive in the Saints’ pass-oriented offense the past four seasons, when he averaged 89 receptions, 1,099 receiving yards and 11.5 touchdown catches. Last season, the Seahawks’ four tight ends combined for 48 receptions, 757 yards and six TD catches – and incumbent starter Zach Miller had his contract terminated last week.

Unger, a Pro Bowl selection in 2012 and 2013, missed 10 games last season with leg and foot injuries, and the Seahawks went 8-2 while using a combination of Patrick Lewis (4-0), Lemuel Jeanpierre (3-0) and Stephen Schilling (1-2) at center. The Seahawks also led the league in rushing.

A second-round draft choice in 2009, Unger was one of three remaining players from the team coach Pete Carroll inherited in 2010 – along with nose tackle Brandon Mebane and punter Jon Ryan.

Graham, 28, provides the big target that has been missing from the Seahawks’ passing game, and a highly productive one at that. He has had four seasons with at least 85 receptions – 99 in 2011, 86 in 2013 and 85 in 2012 and 2014; two seasons with at least 1,200 receiving yards – 1,310 in 2011 and 1,215 in 2013; and four seasons with at least nine TD catches – 16 in 2013, 11 in 2011, 10 in 2014 and nine in 2012.

Not surprisingly, Graham was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2011, 2013 and 2014 and selected first-team All-Pro in 2013 and second-team in 2011.

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