Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will most likely miss the team’s games at Detroit on Oct. 19 and at home against Green Bay the week after, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday.
Citing an anonymous source, Rapoport said Graham is expected to miss between two and three weeks of action due to the shoulder sprain he sustained in the Saints’ 37-31 overtime win in New Orleans against Tampa Bay on Oct. 5.
Graham leads the Saints (2-3) with 34 receptions for 376 yards and three touchdowns and was New Orleans’ lone First-Team All-Pro last year. In the offseason, he signed a four-year contract extension worth up to $40 million that gave him the highest annual average salary for a tight end in NFL history.
Nonetheless, the Saints — who were on a bye this week and are off Sunday — seemed like they were preparing to have to play without Graham for at least a little bit. To add depth at tight end, the Saints on Tuesday signed free-agent tight end Tom Crabtree, a former Green Bay Packer and Tampa Bay Buc.
The Saints will turn to backup tight ends Josh Hill and Ben Watson if Graham is scratched from any upcoming games. Watson has nine grabs for 64 yards, and Hill has seven catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
New Orleans will also hope its wide receivers are able to get more involved than they have been. While rookie wideout Brandin Cooks has been a weapon in the passing game with 32 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown, others from his position group such as Marques Colston (15 grabs for 248 yards and a TD) and Kenny Stills (10 receptions for 141 yards) have been quieter than expected.
The good news for the Saints are that they expect running back Mark Ingram could be available in time for the trip to Detroit after fracturing his hand in Week 2. Ingram was playing very well before he got hurt, rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns on just 24 carries.
The Detroit Lions are 4-2 and defeated 2-4 Minnesota on the road Sunday by a score of 17-3. Green Bay is also 4-2 and won 27-24 at Miami (2-3) on Sunday.
Green Bay will be the first team the Saints meet in 2014 that made the playoffs last season.