Saints TE Jimmy Graham receives franchise tag, still hope for long-term contract
According to reports, Graham can and is expected to holdout signing until July 15 contract deadline for-franchise-tagged players, in hopes of instead securing a long-term deal from Saints. That’s how long it took quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints to agree on his five-year deal worth $100 million in the 2012 offseason. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that a similar scenario could also play out with Graham this offseason.
"Deadlines spur action in the NFL and the real deadline to secure a long-term deal for Graham isn't until July 15,” the paper said.
In the meantime, the real question is what the tender is worth with respect to the position Graham has been tagged at. While Saints spokesman confirmed that the Graham had been tagged by the team, he did not indicate at which position or how the fifth-year pro will be compensated.
Tight end is the lowest paying position – with the exception of kickers – with tagged players earning just around $6.8 million in 2014. Meanwhile, the wideout tag is projected at nearly $5 million more, and Graham is arguing that he should be paid like a receiver because of how often he of how often he lined up split wide from the line in 2013.
The Saints’ argument on the matter is that the team views Graham as a tight end because:
"That's where we drafted him, that's where we play him… That's what makes him valuable,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Last season, Graham led the Saints with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and an NFL-best 16 touchdowns. He’s a favorite target of the team’s signal-caller Brees, also leading in catches during the 2012 as well as 2011 season and only receiving yards in 2011.
Splitting the difference in the franchise tag amounts of tight end and receiver could mean a $9.2 million salary for Graham in 2014.
Terrell Suggs also pushed the Baltimore Ravens to compromise on his one-year franchise tag tender in 2008 and won, after he was initially tagged at the lesser paying linebacker value even though he spent significant time at the defensive end spot.