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Packers release Nelson, to sign Graham

Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner can only watch as Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson brings down a 32-yard touchdown pass on Sept. 10, 2017, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. (Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times/TNS)

Field Level Media

Aaron Rodgers has a new weapon, but he will also be saying goodbye to one of his favorite targets.

Former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham is expected to sign a three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers when free agency officially opens on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

Additionally, the Packers released longtime wideout Jordy Nelson, the team announced Tuesday.

Nelson, 32, was set to count more than $12.5 million against the cap in 2018, the final year of his contract. His release saves Green Bay more than $10.2 million.

Nelson plans to visit the Oakland Raiders after being informed of his release.

Nelson will be familiar with the West Coast-based system Jon Gruden plans to employ in Oakland and would not need to learn a new position. Edgar Bennett, offensive coordinator with the Packers last season, is now WR coach for the Raiders.

Rodgers shared a tribute to Nelson in a heartfelt Instagram post Tuesday evening.

"Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business," Rodgers' post said. "There will never be another quite like white lightning."

Packers wideouts Randall Cobb and Davante Adams will count more than $23 million combined against the cap in 2018. According to an NFL Network report, the Packers have considered signing the 27-year-old Cobb, whose contract expires after 2018, to an extension, though there is no deal in place at this time.

Nelson has been one of Rodgers' favorite targets for several years, catching 195 passes for 2,776 yards and 27 touchdowns from 2014-2016 despite missing the entire 2015 campaign with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. However, Nelson struggled in 2017 as Rodgers missed significant time, finishing with 53 catches for 482 yards and six scores.

He ranks third in team history in receptions (550) and second in touchdown catches (69).

"We cannot thank Jordy enough for all that he has given the Green Bay Packers and our community for the past 10 years," general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a statement. "He has been an exemplary professional and teammate and greatly contributed to our success. Jordy will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. We wish Jordy, his wife Emily, and the rest of their family all the best."

Nelson, who turns 33 in May, intends to continue his playing career, according to an ESPN report. The Patriots, Raiders, Ravens, Seahawks and 49ers are expected to pursue him, with New England being a spot of interest to Nelson, according to a Yahoo Sports report.

Graham, 31, caught 57 passes for just 520 yards in 2017, but he racked up 10 touchdowns en route to his fifth career Pro Bowl selection. He has caught at least nine touchdowns in five of the last seven seasons.

Graham's old team, the New Orleans Saints, reportedly had interest in reuniting with the big tight end, but talks stalled earlier Tuesday, according to an ESPN report.

The Packers have rarely made major moves early in free agency in recent years, but Gutekunst has indicated that he intends to be more active than predecessor Ted Thompson. Tuesday's moves would seem to affirm that approach.

This is the second consecutive offseason in which Green Bay added a big-name tight end. The Packers signed Martellus Bennett last offseason, but the team released him midseason saying he failed to disclose a previous injury.