The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are close to retaining the services of one of their top performers from the 2007 season.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Bucs are about to running back Earnest Graham to a three-year contract extension worth $10.5 million. League sources have also suggested to Pewter Report that Graham's contract extension is pretty much done.
In 2007, Graham, a 2003 undrafted free agent out of Florida, enjoyed a breakout season. He ran the ball 222 times for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns in place of injured running backs Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman.
As a receiver, Graham hauled in 49 passes for 324 yards. The 5-foot-9, 225-pound back was sure handed as well, he only had one fumble during the season. Graham, 28, could have had well over 1,000 yards rushing, but he did not play in the final game of the regular season and had only nine carries the week before. The Buccaneers chose to rest Graham after winning the NFC South. Graham also did not enter the starting lineup until Week 6 of the season.
While Graham missed voluntary workouts this offseason, he attended the mandatory mini-camp earlier this month and indicated he probably would not hold out of training camp. In past offseasons, Graham has been known to prepare on his own for training camp.
"I've always have," Graham told PewterReport.com earlier this month. "Last year, I didn't miss any OTAs, but as far as workouts I made like 13, so I've always worked out on my own. It's not anything against our team. I just always kind of have, even when I was an insignificant player. That's just something I've always done."
Graham had not spoken with the media throughout the offseason. At the team's FanFest earlier on June 14, Graham broke his silence and spoke to Pewter Report. He indicated no malice towards the organization, and thought his future was in Tampa Bay. At the mini-camp, Graham spoke to the entire Tampa Bay media.
"Yeah they are [negotiating]," said Graham on June 17. "I've been here a long time and I respect the organization and the organization respects me. I think with mutual respect it's going to be going in the right direction.
"I mean it needs to get done. I'm not stressing a time frame or anything like that. It just needs to get done. They know that. I know that. Because of that, it'll happen."
When asked if he will be a Buccaneer a year from now after his current contract is up, Graham gave a definitive answer to Pewter Report at FanFest.
"Yeah. I will be. I will be," said Graham.
Prior to that, the Buccaneers organization remained optimistic that an extension would be reached. At the Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon on June 13, Bucs general manager Bruce Allen had said, "I'm sure it's going to work out."
Graham enters the running back competition as the incumbent. The Bucs signed free agent halfback Warrick Dunn, and re-signed Michael Bennett this offseason.
Williams, a 2005 first-round draft pick, also hopes to enter the competition at some point. Williams tore his patellar tendon in Week 4 of last season at Carolina. The Buccaneers also have seventh-round draft pick Cory Boyd, second-year back Kenneth Darby, and undrafted rookie free agent Clifton Smith competing at the position.
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