Katherine TerrellESPN staff writer4 minute reading
METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints are bringing back tight end Jimmy Graham after an eight-year absence and also reached an agreement with five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner on Tuesday.
Graham, 36, is also a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He signed a one-year deal with the Saints, reuniting him with the team that drafted him in 2010. The 30-year-old Turner, a New Orleans native, reached a one-year deal with the Saints, his agents told ESPN.
Graham had some of the most successful years of his career with the Saints before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks in March 2015. The Saints sent Graham and a 2015 fourth-round pick to Seattle in exchange for veteran center Max Unger and a 2015 first-round pick.
“Maybe I’ll get my daughter’s respect back because she killed me when we traded him years ago,” joked general manager Mickey Loomis. “That was her favorite player. I think she’ll be thrilled.”
The Saints have discussed a reunion with Graham several times since his departure and most recently inquired about bringing him back last season. Graham did not play in 2022 after spending the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Chicago Bears. He also played for the Green Bay Packers in 2018 and 2019.
Over 12 NFL seasons, he has caught 713 passes for 8,506 yards and 85 touchdowns in 184 games. Three of his five Pro Bowls occurred while playing in New Orleans.
“Jimmy was a popular player. He should have been a popular player,” Loomis said. “He was spectacular for us and represented himself and the organization and he’s done that everywhere he’s been. I could see the difference in maturity from now on as opposed to when he was with us and we traded him.”
Graham left the Saints in 2015 after a contract battle the previous summer that went to arbitration. He argued that he should have been given the highly valuable wide receiver franchise tag after leading the league in touchdowns in 2013 and earning first-team All-Pro honors. The Saints won the argument, but signed him to a four-year, $40 million deal later in the season.
Loomis said there was never any animosity or trouble leading up to the trade.
“He was never a problem in the locker room. Not at all. He was well-liked by both our staff and our players,” Loomis said. “If you look back at the decision back then, in terms of what we put into the position, the value, there were just a lot of variables involved.”
Coach Dennis Allen said there was talk all summer about bringing Graham back, but they wanted to make sure he still wanted to play. They brought him in for a workout Monday before signing him.
“He looked great, he’s in good shape, he wants to be here, he wants to play for Saints and we felt it was a good addition to that room.” Allen said. “We’ve got some young, up-and-coming players in that space as far as Foster Moreau, Juwan Johnson. Taysom obviously has his role. We’ve got some young players that we’re comfortable with and looking to develop, and we thought Jimmy was kind of the perfect fit for that space.”
Added Loomis: “It came down to a need on our part and a desire on his part to play this year. We have a role that fits him and fits us. It came together, so I’m excited about it. I think he brings a lot to the team, not just in terms of his play, although that’s the No. 1 reason he’s here, man, and he can still play a presence and … that I like having our team.”
The Saints also plan to sign veteran guard Max Garcia, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The 31-year-old veteran can play anywhere in the interior and last started seven games for the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Allen said the offensive line additions are not in response to any injuries, although guard Cesar Ruiz and tackle Trevor Penning are recovering from injuries. Allen said he expects every player on the roster to participate in practice Wednesday, including wide receiver Michael Thomas, who has been recovering from a toe injury all offseason, and safety Marcus Maye, whose jury trial on a 2021 driving under the influence charge was set for Tuesday morning in Florida.
Thomas said in June that he planned to be in full swing on Day 1 of camp, which Allen reiterated Tuesday.
Turner, 30, was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2014 and also played for the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Commanders.
“This is not a health-related signing,” Allen said of Turner. “This is a signing where we felt there was a veteran player we can bring in, put into the mix and see how the competition plays out.
“We’ve played him a lot. He’s a big, physical offensive guard. That’s the No. 1 attribute you see in him is just the physicality that he plays with. We’ve had some good games against him in the past and feel like he’s a good fit for what we want to be able to do offensively.”