Russell Wilson led the Seattle Seahawks to a win for the first time ever when his defense gave up more than 25 points. Unfortunately, he lost his star tight end in the process. Jimmy Graham was enjoying a mini revitalization recently and was having a solid day in week 12, before having his knee buckle while trying to haul in a deep touchdown pass late in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Per reports, Graham tore the patellar tendon in his right knee and will need surgery. The injury is devastating to a Seattle offense that wasn’t even firing on all cylinders for much of 2015 despite trading for Graham this past off-season. Graham finished the day with four catches for 75 yards.

Graham’s first season in Seattle rounds out as a bust in all regards, as he only helped the Seahawks to a pedestrian 5-5 record before going down. Seattle traded star center Max Unger to the Saints for the rights to use Graham, who went from a highly utilized star in New Orleans’ pass-happy attack to an often ignored blocking liability in Seattle’s balanced offense. Graham finished the 2015 season with just 44 catches, 530 receiving yards and a career low two touchdown catches.

Playoff Hit?

The first big question is how big of a hit is the loss of Jimmy Graham to Seattle’s playoff hopes? The answer is a cold – not that big. It comes off a bit harsh, but the reality is this was a run-first offense that never needed a star passing weapon to make back-to-back Super Bowls before and perhaps without feeling the need to force the ball to Graham, the Seahawks can get back to simply running a balanced offensive attack that finds the open guy in the passing game.

Graham definitely brought value as a red-zone presence and intermediate receiver, but he has never been known as an elite blocker and he simply wasn’t a consistent difference-maker. The same can’t be said for explosive rookie receiver Tyler Lockett, while it was two wide receivers – Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin – who enjoyed stat-stuffing performances on Sunday as Russell Wilson threw for a career high five touchdowns. Graham is an elite talent, but he really was never an ideal fit with Seattle. They won without him before he arrived, and they certainly can moving forward. They also have a very solid backup tight end in Luke Willson. Willson had been making strides over the past year and should dive back into a key role, although Seattle will understandably look to feature the tight end position even less by default.

Healthy Returns?

The other big question is what the future might hold for Graham, who is dealing with a brutal injury and just turned 29 years old. For one, this is a near-impossible injury to come back from and play at an elite level again. Slowly exiting his prime, Graham will have to combat a shaky role, age and now this awful injury to remain a superstar in the NFL. It’s still possible, but Graham is an athletic tight end who separated himself from the pack due to speed and explosiveness. If he can’t get back to that same level, his effectiveness may never be the same.

Another interesting take could be Seattle’s need for him going into 2016. If the Seahawks get by just fine without Graham, they could opt to dump his bloated salary and move on. That’s unlikely due to the moderate success he had in their system, but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

In the end, this is awful news for all parties and it’ll be half a year before we have any clue about Graham’s 2016 prospects or beyond. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are in the driver’s seat to make the NFC playoffs as a wild card team, though, and even without Graham they’d remain potential Super Bowl threats for the third year in a row if they got in the league’s tourney.

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