We’d say it was a great deal for the Hawks — getting a first-round-caliber tight end and picks in the third and fourth rounds in exchange for a first-round pick and a second-round center whose value no longer matched that.
Yeah, we know: The deal between the Seahawks and Saints brought tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick for center Max Unger and a first-rounder. Technically no third-rounder.
But that is not the way Seattle GM John Schneider is looking at it. Guaranteed he sees it this way: By trading for a top offensive player and not signing an unrestricted free agent at $8 million a year, he still will get a third-round comp pick in 2016 for losing Byron Maxwell to the Eagles at $10 million a year.
And you know he will be careful to make sure the Hawks lose more UFAs than they sign so that third-rounder comes to him. The Hawks are about to go plus-three in comp picks for 2016, losing Maxwell, James Carpenter (Jets) and Malcolm Smith (Raiders). Cary Williams and Will Blackmon do not count because they were released by their teams.
The Hawks reportedly chased the Jaguars in trying to sign Julius Thomas but would not go to $9 million a year (that would have canceled out the third).
Analysts say this year’s draft has only about 15 true first-round players; Schneider agrees. Graham, the No. 2 tight end in the NFL right now, surely would rate among that top 15. So consider this the equivalent of the Seahawks trading up at least 15 spots in the first round and throwing in Unger and also getting back a third and fourth. The net gain (about 350 points, according to the old draft trade chart) equates to a second-round pick.
We would hope no one would argue that Graham is not worth the 31st pick in the draft — so the matter becomes valuing Unger at a fourth-round pick and wondering why he had to be included in the deal at all.
Unger was a second-round pick in 2009 and made the Pro Bowl in 2012, but he has missed 13 games the past two years — thus lowering his value. Add the fact that he was due to make $4.5 million in 2015 ($5.6 million cap hit) and $4.25 million in 2016, and the Hawks clearly felt like Graham was more valuable at his number than Unger was at his.
The Hawks apparently were considering releasing Unger anyway. Perhaps the Saints wanted more than a first-round pick and were willing to take Unger and toss a fourth in.
As for the financial value, it cost the Hawks $4.6 million more against the cap this year. But the Hawks can get some of that back if they want. Graham is due a $5 million roster bonus on Thursday, and they could easily turn that into a signing bonus and spread it over the final three years of the four-year, $40 million contract he signed last summer. That would net the Hawks $3.33 million this year (while adding $1.67 million to the cap hits the next two years).
The Hawks also could just tear up the deal and give Graham a new contract. The current deal calls for $8 million this year, $9 million in 2016 and $10 million (including a $2 million roster bonus) in 2017. That’s $9 million a year, which is exactly what Thomas got from Jacksonville.
Basically, it would be a restructure that gives Graham more money this year in the form of a signing bonus and extends his deal by a couple of years.
Whether they do that or just let it ride, the fact is the Hawks are getting good value in this deal — including a third-rounder they would have lost if they had signed Thomas.