TIME Late Greats

Remembering Chuck Bednarik, the NFL’s Iron Man

Chuck Bednarik, of the Philadelphia Eagles.
AP Chuck Bednarik, of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Playing the full 60 minutes on offense and defense, the Philadelphia Eagles bruiser helped secure one of pro football's most thrilling title games

I’ll bet Chuck Bednarik sneered at the glitzy name the National Football League pinned on its championship game in 1967: the Super Bowl. To Bednarik, the Philadelphia Eagles star from 1949 to 1962, a football game was not a piece of crockery deigned by Andy Warhol. It was trench warfare every Sunday afternoon, in the Iron Age of professional football. And Bednarik, who died Saturday at 89 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was the NFL’s Iron Man.

No. 60 was also the 60-Minute Man, often playing both offense (center) and defense (linebacker) for an entire game—including the title skirmish against Vince Lombardi’s legendary Green Bay Packers, on Dec. 26, 1960, which brought the Eagles their most satisfying championship, and their last to date. More than a half-century later, Philly fans of advanced age remember that game as the pinnacle of civic pride, the Billy Penn’s hat of sporting events, and a testament to the city’s working-class grit as exemplified by “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik.

The son of a Bethlehem, Pa., steelworker from Slovakia, Charles Philip Bednarik had a body built for the game—6 ft., 2 in., 235 lb., back when that was mastodon-size—and the requisite remorseless dedication. A two-way star at Bethlehem’s Liberty High School, Chuck enlisted in the Army Air Force and spent the war flying 30 combat missions over Germany as a B-24 waist-gunner. Back home, he played four seasons for the University of Pennsylvania in its brief college-football glory and finished third in the Heisman Trophy vote. In 1949 he became the Eagles’ first draft pick and made All-Pro in eight of his 14 seasons. As much punishment as he dished out, Bednarik could take even more: he missed only three games in his pro career.

With the blue eyes and brutal demeanor of actor Charles Bronson, another rock-solid, coal-country son of Eastern Europeans, Bednarik personified the Eagles as dominant enforcers. Fans saw the players not as faraway star athletes but as guys doing a tough job with honor—in a way, our cops—and for not much money. Signed by the Eagles for a $10,000 salary and a $3,000 bonus, Bednarik never made more than $27,000 a year. The “Concrete Charlie” nickname didn’t refer to his remorseless blocking and tackling; he had to take an off-season job selling concrete to make ends meet.

No question, though, that Bednarik was an artist of legitimate violence: no dirty plays, just the brick-wall force of an immovable object. The words on his plaque in the Pro Football Hall of Fame—”rugged, durable, bulldozing blocker … a bone-jarring tackler”—are almost an understatement, especially to anyone who has seen footage of the November 1960 game in which he leveled Frank Gifford, the Hollywood-handsome running back for the New York Giants, knocking him out of the sport for a year and a half.

A famous Sports Illustrated photo shows Bednarik seeming to exult over the prostrate Gifford. Fifty years later, Bednarik denied the charge—while emphasizing his team’s proletarian underdog status. “I wasn’t gloating over him,” he said. “I had no idea he was there. It was the most important play and tackle in my life. They were from the big city. The glamor boys. The guys who got written up in all the magazines. But I thought we were the better team.” Class resentment aside, that tackle secured a win against the Giants and propelled the Eagles to their Boxing Day title game.

It happens that 1960 was a crucial year for pro football. On the 23rd ballot, the NFL elected a compromise candidate, Pete Rozelle, as commissioner. Moving the league offices from Philadelphia to New York, Rozelle established franchises in Dallas and Minneapolis. The NFL launched this expansion to ward off its feisty rival, the American Football League, which began operations that fall. Six years later, when the NFL swallowed the AFL, creating the Super Bowl, it was well on its way to becoming America’s sport and a multi-zillion-dollar behemoth.

On the day after Christmas in 1960, though, the Big Game was only so big. It was not played in some balmy city with two weeks of walk-up hype; the team with the best division record served as host. The Eastern Division–winning Eagles didn’t have their own stadium; they were tenants at Penn’s Franklin Field. (Bednarik played all his home games, college and pro, in the same place.) Since Franklin Field had no lights, the match started at noon, so that a sudden-death overtime game, like the one two years before between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, would not be called on account of darkness.

Fans had bought all 67,325 seats for the Eagles-Packers contest, yet the game was blacked out on local TV. You had to drive to New Jersey to watch it. Or you could do what I did as a teenage Philly sports fan: take a train to the stadium and buy a ticket from a scalper. The official price was $8; outside the gates, I paid $6. It was a long time ago.

The Packers would become the most successful franchise of the ’60s, winning five championships, including the first two Super Bowls. But in 1960, quarterback Bart Starr, halfback Paul Hornung and fullback Jim Taylor were figures of promise, not legend. Still, the 8-4 Packers were significant favorites over the 10-2 Eagles. Philly’s squad might have been found at a Germantown garage sale: 12 of the 22 starters were castoffs from other teams. And their wins seemed feats of green magic. In six of their games they were behind entering the fourth quarter; they won six by less than a touchdown. How could their luck hold against the surging Pack?

Playing on a field with some frozen patches and a few puddles where snow had melted, Green Bay penetrated the Philadelphia red zone four times but mustered only six points, because Lombardi, as he later acknowledged, was too greedy for touchdowns. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Eagles trailed 13-10. Ted Dean, one of the team’s three black players, returned a kickoff 58 yards. Later he took a handoff from quarterback Norm Van Brocklin for five yards and the go-ahead score.

In the game’s last minute, the Packers had advanced to the Eagles’ 22-yard line. Starr lobbed a short pass to Taylor, with nothing between him and the end zone—and victory—but Concrete Charlie. Bednarik wrestled Taylor down at the 10 and sat on him as the final seconds ticked away mercilessly. Eagles 17, Packers 13. “You can get up now, Taylor,” Bednarik finally growled. “This damn game’s over.”

A Sports Illustrated photo, taken moments later, shows mud-caked No. 60 with a rare smile as he shakes Starr’s hand and wraps his other paw around the much smaller, defeated Taylor. It never got better for the Iron Man. And for many Philly fans, like this one, it never got as good.

Even in retirement, Bednarik held true to his truculence, criticizing modern pro athletes as “pussyfooters” who “suck air after five plays” and “couldn’t tackle my wife Emma.” He also dismissed the few two-way stars, like Deion Sanders and Troy Brown because, as wide receivers and defensive backs, they weren’t jolted by hard contact on every play, as he had been back in the day.

We should be grateful that the steelworker’s son didn’t soften in his later years; he never tired of being Chuck Bednarik. That’s why his fitting eulogy should be the cartoon that Rob Tornoe drew of Concrete Charlie’s final play: bulldozing his way into Heaven by ripping open the Pearly Gates. For the Iron Man, this damn game is never over.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Instead of fighting about the Iran nuclear talks, Congress and the White House should be planning smart sanctions in case a deal falls through.

By Elizabeth Rosenberg and Richard Nephew in Roll Call

2. DARPA thinks it has a solution to Ebola — and lots of other infectious diseases.

By Alexis C. Madrigal at Fusion

3. A stand-out rookie’s retirement after one year in the NFL over fears of brain injury should be a wake-up call for all of football.

By Ben Kercheval in Bleacher Report

4. When patients are urged to get involved in their course of treatment, they’re more confident and satisfied with their care.

By Anna Gorman in Kaiser Health News

5. We don’t need “diversity” on television. We need television to reflect the world around us.

By Shonda Rhimes in Medium

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Football

Leah Still’s Doctors Believe She May Be Cancer-Free

Devon Still’s daughter, Leah, may be cancer-free, the Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman said on Instagram Tuesday.

“We still have to wait for her MRI and bone biopsy results later this week,” Still wrote. “But the doctors feel very optimistic about them because of the results from today.”

Leah was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma on June 2 and was given a 50/50 chance to survive. The Bengals cut still from their active roster but added him to the practice squad so that he could keep his health insurance and help pay for Leah’s treatments. The team began selling replicas of Still’s No. 75 jersey and donating the proceeds to pediatric cancer research.

Still was later added to the active roster and made 19 tackles in 12 games.

The pair announced in January that they had written a children’s book to help kids undergoing cancer treatments.

This article originally appeared on SI.com


Chris Borland Is the New Model NFL Player

San Francisco 49ers v New York Giants
Michael Zagaris—Getty Images Chris Borland #50 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles Odell Beckham Jr.of the New York Giants during the game at Metlife Stadium on November 16, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The 49ers linebacker, who just finished an excellent rookie year and was looking at possible NFL stardom, retires in fear of brain injuries. Is this the new football blueprint?

Chris Borland had at least five more lucrative years in him, maybe more. This was going to be his peak earning period. But he decided the rest of his life was worth more.

Borland, a San Francisco 49ers linebacker, just finished a productive rookie year, and was set to take on a bigger role with the team after fellow linebacker Patrick Willis, 30, announced his retirement last week. Willis, bothered by foot injuries, surprised many by leaving the game in his prime. But at least he had a prime. Borland, 24, is also retiring, sacrificing millions to preserve his brain.

It’s a newsworthy decision, but not all that shocking, given the rationale behind it. The brain science becomes more daunting year-by-year: by playing NFL football, you’re risking the quality of your life. A Borland was going to come along at some point: a promising player quitting, before he really gets started.

Is this a bit of a nightmare for the NFL? Sure. The league keeps losing PR battles; Borland’s retirement condemns the game. Yes, four NFL players age 30 or younger have retired during the past week. But don’t expect a flood of players to hand in their helmets. A decade ago, we weren’t even talking about the long-term dangers of concussions. A decade later, a young player staves off the damage. A decade from now? There will be other Borlands. Enough to cripple the league? Doubtful. Many, many decades from now? That’s another story. Fewer young kids are playing tackle football. The trends aren’t good.

Borland, who according to ESPN Stats & Information led the NFL in tackles from Weeks 7-15, when he filled in for Willis as a starter, did the research. He thought he sustained a concussion in training camp, but played through it, because he felt like that’s what he’d have to do to make the team. He called on concussion researchers to get the facts. Borland’s retired, but let’s see if he actually stays on the sidelines. At 24, he can always change his mind. If he follows through on his plan to go back to school and chase a career in sports management, and has a happy, successful life without football … Chris Borland might be the model NFL player, after playing a single season in the NFL.

TIME Football

San Francisco Linebacker Chris Borland to Retire Due to Safety Concerns

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders
Thearon W. Henderson—Getty Images Latavius Murray of the Oakland Raiders is tackled by Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2014

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland told Outside the Lines on Monday that he is retiring due to concerns over “the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma.”

According to ESPN, the 24-year-old told the 49ers of his decision on Friday. Borland said he first began to think about the possibility of retiring early during training camp last season. The rookie said he thinks he sustained a concussion, but played through it, partly because he wanted to make the team.

From ESPN:

He said he made his decision after consulting with family members, concussion researchers, friends and current and former teammates, and studying what is known about the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told “Outside the Lines.” “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

Last week, linebacker Patrick Willis retired because he thought the injuries he had sustained while playing football would keep him from playing at an “elite” level and he was worried about the quality of his life after football. Borland told ESPN that his former teammate’s decision did not play a role in his retirement.

In a statement on Monday, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Borland’s decision was unexpected.

“While unexpected, we certainly respect Chris’ decision,” said Baalke. “From speaking with Chris, it was evident that he had put a great deal of thought into this decision. He was a consummate professional from day one and a very well respected member of our team and community. Chris is a determined young man that overcame long odds in his journey to the NFL and we are confident he will use the same approach to become very successful in his future endeavors. We will always consider him a 49er and wish him all the best.”

Borland told ESPN that he plans to go back to school to pursue a career in sports management. Borland has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin.

ESPN notes that Borland is the fourth NFL player under the age of 30 to decide to retire in the past week.

This article originally appeared on SI.com


Tim Tebow Works Out for Eagles, Leaves Without Signing

ESPN The Party - Arrivals
Robin Marchant—Getty Images for ESPN Former NFL player/broadcaster Tim Tebow attends ESPN the Party on Jan. 30, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Tebow hasn't played in the NFL since 2012

Tim Tebow worked out with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, but the team will not sign him, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Schefter first reported Tebow’s workout, which the Eagles later confirmed to the Philadelphia Daily News’ Les Bowen.

Tebow, 28 in August, last played in the NFL in 2012 as a member of the New York Jets. That season, he appeared in 12 games (two starts) and went 6-of-8 for 39 yards. He also rushed 32 times for 102 yards.

Tebow signed with the New England Patriots in June 2013 but was released two months later.

Though Tebow has begun a broadcasting career with ESPN, SEC Network and ABC’s Good Morning America, he reportedly maintained hopes of resuming his NFL career. Earlier this month, a report from The Boston Globe indicated Tebow was considering participating in the NFL’s veteran combine on March 22. The report said Tebow has worked out “diligently” with renowned quarterback coach Tom House in Los Angeles over the last two years.

The Eagles have been busy this offseason, most noticeably trading away running back LeSean McCoy, signing former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray and sending quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Eagles also re-signed quarterback Mark Sanchez, who spent 2014 with the team after five years with the New York Jets, where he was Tebow’s teammate in 2012.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Football

Latest Buzz Around NFL Free Agency, Trades, 2015 Draft

NFL: Divisional Round-Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch—USA Today Sports/Reuters Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs past Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) in the fourth quarter in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 11, 2015

With NFL free agency in full swing and the draft approaching next month, the NFL rumor mill is abuzz

• The Eagles are interested in signing free-agent running back DeMarco Murray,according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. New Eagles QB Sam Bradford said he is trying to lure Murray to Philadelphia. The two played together in college at Oklahoma.

• Bears general manager Ryan Pace said the team is moving forward with Jay Cutler as its starting quarterback, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright reports. Cutler was benched late last season and reportedly on the trade block during the offseason.

• Michael Sam will participate in NFL Veteran Combine in Arizona on March 22,azcentral.com reports.

• The Buccaneers will release defensive end Mike Johnson, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports. Johnson signed a five-year, $43.75 million contract before the 2014 season, and the Bucs will still have to pay him $7 million of his $9 million salary this season.

• The Jets will acquire quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Texans in exchange for late-round conditional draft pick, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

• Former Broncos tight end Julius Thomas signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jaguars. Jacksonville has also brought on cornerback Davon House, safety Sergio Brown and defensive end Jared Odrick.

• The Chiefs have signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to a five-year deal that could be worth as much as $55 million. Last season, Maclin set career highs in catches and yards after missing 2013 with a torn ACL.

• The Rams have contacted Lions DT Nick Fairley, but Fairley has yet to schedule a visit with St. Louis, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Detroit has reportedly been unable to make a deal with the free agent defensive tackle.

• Chip Kelly told reporters that the Eagles were offered a first-round draft pick on Wednesday for recently-acquired quarterback Sam Bradford.

• ESPN’s John Clayton says the Redskins will draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota if he is available at No. 5 in next month’s draft, Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post reports.

• Reggie Bush is set to visit the 49ers, reports CSNBayArea’s Matt Maiocco.

• The New York Jets are reportedly in talks to bring back cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

• The Eagles agreed to a deal with former Giants and Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports.

• The Raiders have reportedly signed linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive tackle Dan Williams.

• The Bills and defensive tackle Kyle Williams reportedly agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million extension, keeping him with the team through the 2017 season.

• NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that free agent defensive end Greg Hardy has at least six teams interested in him.

• The Eagles are expected to sign running back Ryan Mathews, Mike Garofolo of Fox Sports reports.

• NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the 49ers are expected to release wide receiver Stevie Johnson after one season with the team.

• The 49ers signed backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert to a two-year, $2 million contract, reports ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen.

• Former Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams will reportedly visit the Steelers, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter.

• Safety Rahim Moore is reportedly visiting the Houston Texans, according to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo

• The Dolphins have released defensive tackle Randy Starks, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

TIME Football

Detroit Lions Acquire Haloti Ngata From Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens v Indianapolis Colts
Joe Robbins—Getty Images Haloti Ngata in action against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Oct. 5, 2014

Mere minutes before Ndamukong Suh was officially free to sign with the Miami Dolphins, his former team, the Detroit Lions, pulled the trigger on a trade for Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata.

The Ravens confirmed the trade just before the 4 p.m. ET start of free agency Tuesday. The MMQB’s Peter King tweeted that Detroit will send fourth- and fifth-round draft picks back to Baltimore, and the Lions will also get seventh-round pick in the deal.

Ngata, 31, has one year left on his current contract but carried a $16 million cap hit for the Ravens. The Lions will pick up the $8.5 million base-salary portion of that deal, with the remainder staying on Baltimore’s books in dead money. (They actually owe Suh more than that in dead money, at $9.7 million.) Detroit may try to restructure Ngata’s deal in order to keep the five-time Pro Bowler around past 2015, though a similar tact reportedly fell through in Baltimore, likely leading to this trade.

​In the immediate future, though, Ngata helps Detroit stop the bleeding caused by Suh’s imminent departure. The Lions declined to use the franchise tag on their superstar defensive tackle, then came up short of the $19 million-per-year, $60 million-guaranteed offer that Miami is believed to have handed Suh.

Suh’s running partner at defensive tackle for the past four seasons, Nick Fairley, also became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday.

The arrival of the 335-pound Ngata could signal a shift for the Lions from their 4-3 defense into a 3-4, which Baltimore runs. Ngata was most effective as a 3-4 DE for the Ravens, though he also spent time at the nose-tackle spot. While thinned out along the interior, Detroit does have a promising set of edge players, starting with DE Ziggy Ansah. Either way, Detroit’s coaching staff should have a pretty good idea of how it will useNgata, what with head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinatorTeryl Austin having served together on Baltimore’s staff from 2012-13.

The Ravens, meanwhile, stood their ground with regards to Ngata’s contract. They obviously lost longtime lineman because of that approach, but it was possible that Baltimore would have released Ngata anyway had this trade not come to pass. The two draft picks, even in the mid-rounds, sweetened the pot.

Ngata’s absence still will be felt up front. Timmy Jernigan, a 2014 second-round pick, should pick up extra playing time now, with Brandon Williams continuing to hold down the NT position.

Ngata does not provide the pass-rushing punch of Suh—although, perhaps no other interior defensive lineman can—but he remains formidable against the run. Since Detroit no longer can build its defense around Suh’s talents, Ngata is a solid fallback play.

Grade for Detroit: B-plus

Ngata is 31 and probably will not handle the same snap-count workload that Suh did, but he’s still a serious handful up front. Other than a four-game suspension to close 2014, Ngata never missed more than two games in any of his nine Baltimore seasons. Coughing up multiple draft picks may not be ideal, but keeping them both on Day 3 will lessen any hit.

Can Detroit get Ngata’s contract restructured or is this a one-year stopgap solution? The wheels are in motion on that answer, as well as on how exactly Ngata’s arrival impacts Detroit’s scheme. Should Ngata push toward becoming a 2016 free agent, the Lions won’t come out feeling quite as good.

Strictly viewed within the 2015 window, however, this is a significant pickup for Detroit.

Grade for Baltimore: B

Tough spot for the Ravens, with Ngata reportedly unwilling to help lower his cap hit this season. Without question, a trade for draft picks was preferable to simply letting Ngata walk. It’s still nowhere near as ideal as keeping Ngata in the fold.

The combination of some depth along the D-line and Ngata’s massive cap hit forced GM Ozzie Newsome’s hand. Newsome gets and deserves the benefit of the doubt on most moves, so we have to assume this was the only legitimate option.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Cornerback Darrelle Revis to Sign With New York Jets

Free-agent cornerback Darrelle Revis has agreed sign with the New York Jets, his agents announced Tuesday.

The contract is expected to include more than $40 million in guaranteed money, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Revis became a free agent after the New England Patriots declined to pick up the $20 million option on his contract for this season. Revis, 29, spent the first six seasons of his career with the Jets before the team traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013.

The Buccaneers released Revis last March, and the Patriots signed him to a two-year contract that paid Revis $12 million in 2014.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the Patriots and Revis continued to try to negotiate a deal. The Cleveland Browns also reportedly expressed interest in Revis.

Revis is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. The 29-year-old has earned four Pro Bowl nods and four first-team All Pro selections.

In 16 starts last season, Revis recorded two interceptions, 16 passes defended and 50 tackles.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Seattle Seahawks Acquire Jimmy Graham in Massive Trade With Saints

Cincinnati Bengals  v New Orleans Saints
Stacy Revere—Getty Images Jimmy Graham warms up prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Nov. 16, 2014

The Seahawks have been trying to find the optimal target for Russell Wilson since Wilson became the team’s starting quarterback in 2012, with limited success. In 2013, they tried to fix that problem by trading their first-round pick to the Vikings for receiver Percy Harvin, then signed Harvin to a monstrous extension. It didn’t work out well at all—Harvin missed most of the 2013 regular season with a hip injury and was traded to the Jets in the 2014 season for a number of reasons.

That experience clearly hasn’t made Seattle shy away from trading another first-round pick for another major target. According to Fox Sports’s Jay Glazer, Seattle has traded its 2015 first-round pick and center Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirmed the deal.

“We have a great relationship with the Saints,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider told Alex Flanagan of the NFL Network Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve been talking for several days. It’s hard in this business when you’re talking about moving someone the caliber of a Max Unger, but we’re always talking about how there’s no finish line here, and how we’re trying to get better every single day. This opportunity presented itself, and it’s one of those deals that we felt we needed to make in order to keep moving forward as an organization.”

The Seahawks had been involved in discussions to bring Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas to Seattle, but Thomas signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars instead. There was also some talk about Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, but it was pretty clear that Schneider viewed the Graham deal as the one that couldn’t be passed up.

“The size, and what he does in the red zone,” Schneider said. “He’s scored 46 touchdowns since 2011, and outside of Marshawn Lynch and Dez Bryant, those are the top three guys scoring touchdowns in the last three years.”

Head coach Pete Carroll echoed those sentiments in a Tuesday conference call with local media.

“We think he’s a fantastic target that we can implement in a number of ways. I think all the ways we’ve come to understand is pretty clear – he’s a big receiver, plays big, makes plays in a crowd, makes plays on top of guys, is a very effective player in the red zone, he’s been a consistent scorer. So all of that stuff, we’re going to fit it into our offense and make him a very obvious complementary part of it. When you have to deal with Marshawn (Lynch) and it starts with the run game and Russell (Wilson) doing his thing to complement the receivers that we have that have made so many plays for us and done so many cool things – we think this is a great addition and should really… Your best players always help your other guys play well and be productive. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Saints head coach Sean Payton was a bit rueful about losing a player of Graham’s talent, but excited about acquiring Unger and that extra first-round pick.

“Coming to us from a primary basketball background with limited experience in 2010, Jimmy immediately got to work in the weight room, on the practice field and in the playbook and quickly evolved into one of the top tight ends that I have ever coached,” Payton said. “Decisions like these are always difficult and we wish Jimmy the best of luck. We’re excited to add Max to our offensive line. He is a tough, physical player where he blocked for one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL, he has been a solid contributor to Seattle’s success.”

A third-round pick out of Miami in the 2010 draft, Graham has been one of the most productive and dynamic players at his position over the last few seasons, catching 386 passes for 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career. In 2014, he grabbed 85 passes for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2013, he led the league with 16 touchdowns.

The first-round pick is a steep price for Graham’s services, but there is an upside for the Seahawks besides his productivity: Graham is going into the second year of an entirely reasonable four-year, $40 million contract with $20.9 million guaranteed.

For the Saints, the addition of Unger allows them to solidify the inside of their offensive line, as Unger plays at a Pro Bowl level when healthy. He’s an outstanding move center who can get to the second level quickly. That “when healthy” caveat is important, though. Unger has missed 13 games total in the last two seasons with various injuries. The addition of the Seahawks’ first-round pick made this too tough to pass up for a franchise that came into free agency needing to make several moves just to get under the salary cap. The Saints are looking to rebuild, and high draft picks are the best way to do that.

Grade for Seahawks: B+

Giving up a first-round pick for any player is a dicey proposition, and there were times when Graham disappeared in the Saints’ passing game. In Seattle’s offense, he’ll be a frequently-targeted weapon. There should be concern about Graham’s blocking and what the Seahawks are going to do to replace Unger (they’re also losing left guard James Carpenter to the Jets), but when you get a chance to improve your offense in this fashion, you take the plunge. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are never afraid to make the high-risk deal, and that’s what they’ve done here.

Grade for Saints: B

This is exactly what the Saints needed. Yes, Graham is a major loss, but again, this is a team with a lot of aging veterans and needs at other positions. The extra first-round pick will help a great deal. Of course, the one downside to this is that the Saints have lost their primary passing target in what look to be the final years of Drew Brees‘s prime.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

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