*Submitted Paper*

**Inserted:** 21 dec 2021

**Pages:** 33

**Year:** 2021

We study minimal graphs with linear growth on complete manifolds $M^m$ with $\mathrm{Ric} \ge 0$. Under the further assumption that the $(m-2)$-th Ricci curvature in radial direction is bounded below by $C r(x)^{-2}$, we prove that any such graph, if non-constant, forces tangent cones at infinity of $M$ to split off a line. Note that $M$ is not required to have Euclidean volume growth. We also show that $M$ may not split off any line. Our result parallels that obtained by Cheeger, Colding and Minicozzi for harmonic functions. The core of the paper is a new refinement of Korevaar's gradient estimate for minimal graphs, together with heat equation techniques.