Graham has been a solid fan favorite for the Saints ever since he was drafted in the third round in 2010. In his rookie year he played in all but one game and totaled 356 yards with five touchdowns. Each year following his debut, Graham continued to rack up the yards and touchdowns, becoming one of the league's finest tight ends in recent times.
Last season, Graham had an astounding 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns in 15 games, making him the number one tight end in the entire league in 2013. He has made quite a name for himself in New Orleans, and throughout the NFL. But will he stay?
|Jeffery Beall via Wikimedia Commons|
Despite glowing statistics and continuous solid play, Graham is set to be a free agent in the beginning of March unless the Saints extend his contract. The contract talks are expected to be groundbreaking, as Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has already made it clear that the Saints will use the franchise tag on Graham if necessary. That could set off an unprecedented battle over whether Graham should be officially tagged as a tight end or a receiver. Graham seems to not be too worried about the future negotiations.
"For me, I'm just standing," he told The Times-Picayune when asked where he stands on negotiations. "I take every day one day at a time. I'm just going to wait and see what happens because that's where it's at."The one-year franchise tag salary between tight ends and receivers is expected to be around $6.7 million and $11.5 million, respectively, this year. Graham is almost certainly expected to become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, as he and agent Jimmy Sexton could seek for him to be paid more than $10 million per year. This figure is more in line with the top receivers throughout the league, based on Graham's actual receiving numbers.
If successful, this contract would surpass the $9 million per year that New England's tight end Rob Gronkowski received in an extension two years ago. When asked about him possibly becoming listed as a wide receiver, Graham virtually shrugged it off.
“That’s not really for me to say, I guess,” Graham said. “I go and I do and line up where I’m told. You know, we do a lot of things for match up purposes. And whenever I’m split out I’m bigger than everyone, so I’m able to have that match up. So I just do what I’m told and I play and go and do what I’m told to do. So, hopefully it doesn’t have to get to that and we can figure something out.”The Saints needed to trim more than $15 million in salary-cap space to get under the cap and be able to afford new deals for Graham and others. As a tight end with a career 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns in only four solid seasons, Graham should definitely be the top priority for the Saints.
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