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Loomis: Saints will franchise Graham as a tight end if no long-term deal

7ec08738cbeb40b111f9e531d6ba256a Getty Images

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has finished the final year of his rookie deal, leaving the Saints with a couple of choices if they don’t want to risk losing him as a free agent.

They can sign Graham to a long-term deal or they can use the franchise tag, a choice that’s fraught with its own potential trouble for New Orleans. By NFL rule, players are given a franchise tag at the position where they participated in the most plays and Graham was used as a traditional, in-line tight end just one-third of the time during the 2013 season. That could set up a fight about whether Graham should be treated as a receiver or if the job description of a tight end has changed enough that he still qualifies at that spot.

It’s a fight that the Saints are willing to have. Speaking at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said, via WWL-TV, that the Saints would use the franchise tag on Graham if they are unable to reach agreement on a longer deal. And Loomis said they’d franchise him as a tight end, since he was drafted as one and, in the mind of the team, remains one.

That would likely impact the Saints’ approach to negotiations on a long-term deal as well. There’s a sizable gap between the franchise tags for the two positions and using the tight end figure ($6 million in 2013) makes for lower starting place for contract talks.

The Packers and Jermichael Finley were headed toward a similar standoff a couple of years ago, but wound up agreeing on a two-year contract that stopped the squabble before it really got going. Given the big difference in salary between the two franchise tags, there’s an obvious benefit to the Saints in having Graham franchised as a tight end as it would leave the door open for doing it twice without breaking the bank.

The opposite would be true for Graham, which could mean that it takes a while before we know Graham’s status for the 2014 season.

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35 Responses to “Loomis: Saints will franchise Graham as a tight end if no long-term deal”
  1. bennyb82 says: Jan 21, 2014 11:37 AM

    When teams do this it really explains why players hold out. Graham has been the best tight end the last 2 or 3 years and getting franchised as a TE would be much lower than his worth.

  2. seatownballers says: Jan 21, 2014 11:38 AM

    Im Jimmy, pay me!

  3. ryanaammess says: Jan 21, 2014 11:39 AM

    Hold out. They’ll have to do away with the wr and te tags in favor of pass catcher.

  4. seatownballers says: Jan 21, 2014 11:42 AM

    Vikings are drooling to sign Jimmy. They are willing to throw a Jennings type of deal at him. Minnesota’s current tight ends can’t stay healthy, have no one throwing to them, and figure Jimmy might be able to play qb. Sad day for vikes fans

  5. johnnyjagfan says: Jan 21, 2014 11:44 AM

    If they franchise tag him and another team doesn’t offer the ransom to acquire him, I’ll be surprised. He makes that offense go.

  6. pw1265 says: Jan 21, 2014 11:46 AM

    New Orleans Saints: Over $11.8 Million……………………………..so how many players will they cut to sign him????
    or do they mortgage the future and restructure contracts???

    they are in a world of hurt and the future does not appear to be bright.

  7. pats777 says: Jan 21, 2014 11:55 AM

    Graham shouldn’t even qualify as a TE since he can’t block. He should be franchised as a slot receiver, cha ching.

  8. sumkat says: Jan 21, 2014 11:57 AM

    Question is, do the Saints want Graham long term? If they do tag him, at the TE spot, I think he walks once he has the chance

    Is it really worth saving a few million (I would assume if they can franchise him for 13, they could probably sign him long term for 9ish), to make the only guy I would consider a young star on that team bitter against them?

    To me, unless they’ve decided he is NOT the answer long term, they should swallow that pill and get it down

  9. 12brichandfamous says: Jan 21, 2014 12:00 PM

    This will be an interesting fight between union and team. graham is really just a huge receiver. His blocking skills are non-existent.

    They should pay him as a receiver because that is what he does. The number he wears is only because of his size.

  10. amazingguy101 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:03 PM

    Someone take him from the saints. Saints are too powerful.

  11. 23rdusernameused says: Jan 21, 2014 12:05 PM

    he’s not a TE 2/3 of the time though, MICKEY!! Don’t try and mickey mouse his contract, or he’ll be gone!!
    PAY DA MAN WR MONEY!!! He’s worth every cent of it, and you, Mickey and Drew know it!!

  12. sb44champs says: Jan 21, 2014 12:06 PM

    I’m a Saints and Jimmy Graham fanatic but I don’t like how he disappears everytime we play a decent secondary.

  13. jpb12 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:09 PM

    The guy’s a TE. Only a lawyer could have us believing otherwise

  14. brandewman70 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:14 PM

    The Saints need to bite the bullet and lock Jimmy up for the long term. They know we need him if we want to make it to the Superbowl in the future. Period.

  15. princeopus says: Jan 21, 2014 12:20 PM

    sign and trade him,,N.E,PITT,K.C,could use him,,,saints have too many upgrades to justify that high a cap number

  16. The League's Crusade Against The Steelers Continues says: Jan 21, 2014 12:21 PM

    He’s soft

  17. floratiotime says: Jan 21, 2014 12:28 PM

    Franchise tags are wonderful for creating problem players. Stick it to him good Saints. Make him pay for all that excellent TE work. Lay some of that old ‘who dat’ contract beat-down on your best player. Sweet.

  18. primenumber19 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:28 PM

    He’s a slot receiver not a te

  19. dvdman123 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:32 PM

    Saints are going to be very good next season with or without him just because of their defense alone.

  20. jr507 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:37 PM

    As a Jets fan, I’m just hoping this drags out long enough for Jenkins to be available in FA.

    That said, Graham is a beast with Brees. He should stay in NO….but for WR money.

  21. robf2010 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:42 PM

    They’ll get this deal done. He has room for improvement across the board but it would be totally stupid to let him go.

  22. open1337 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:53 PM

    Don’t franchise him.

  23. 6thsense10 says: Jan 21, 2014 12:55 PM

    Graham barely lines up as a tight end so good luck to Loomis attempting to franchise him as one.

    The Saints have a player that they paid an average of a little over $600,000 a year who this year had 1215 yds, 16td, and 14.1 yards per reception. Better numbers than most wide receivers. I would say this to any Saints fan who would nitpick Graham in this negotiations….. Let him hit free agency and see if teams will pay him like merely abtight end or if they pay him as a top end receiver.

  24. nuzents says: Jan 21, 2014 1:32 PM

    Graham should be paid like a TE. Would he make the Pro Bowl as a Wide Receiver? No! Would he make the All Pro Roster as a Wide Receiver? No! Almost all honors he received should be taken away.

  25. johnclaytonsponytail says: Jan 21, 2014 2:08 PM

    Here’s an idea… franchise him an then sign him to a 4-5 year deal. Pay him between a Wr and TE. Make the contract bearable for a team to trade for him after Brees retires. Lets be honest he wouldnt be half what he is without Brees and it would lessen the blow to help rebuild quicker.

  26. flexx91 says: Jan 21, 2014 2:21 PM

    The fact that he was basically shut-out when covered by CB’s TWICE indicates that he’s a TE. If his agent wants to argue TE vs. WR, then he should have argued his roster designation with the team, the league office, and the NLFPA a long time ago.

    So if a reserve OT line up as an eligible receiver and catches 5 TD passes in one season, can he argue that he should be paid like a starting TE?

  27. shaunypoo says: Jan 21, 2014 2:25 PM

    His stats are comparable to Brandon Marshall who is making 47.3 million on a 5 year deal signed in 2010. Graham has a more TD’s overall, but averages less catches and yards. I’d say giving Graham $8-10 per year for 4-6 years is probably a good deal for both player and team.

  28. bassplucker says: Jan 21, 2014 2:37 PM

    Somehow I get the feeling this is gonna be long, drawn out and ugly.

  29. rabidbillsfan says: Jan 21, 2014 2:39 PM

    Except Brandon Marshall had a label stapled to his forehead that stated “Headcase” and Graham is younger. He gets a raise over Gronk money or he walks/holds out, it’s really pretty simple.

  30. jm91rs says: Jan 21, 2014 2:40 PM

    He’s worth about whatever Gronk got (remember, that deal came before all the injuries), maybe a hair more. That should be simple enough.

  31. monroesaintsfan says: Jan 21, 2014 2:43 PM

    I love Jimmy but my team is in a world of cap hurt already. Tag him at one or the other and trade him for 2-3 high draft picks.

  32. 87hollywoodhorn says: Jan 21, 2014 2:53 PM

    he was defended like a wr several games this year and he was shut down. He is NOT a wr, he cannot separate from corners like other big slow guys who are actually wide receivers.
    Sean Payton screwed up by splitting him out so much. It made us too predictable. He’s very overrated tbh. I only want him if he actually plays the position where hes a matchup nightmare, TIGHT END with his hand in the dirt!
    Drew Brees and Sean Payton are the reason for his gaudy numbers, if you wanna deny that and try playing him like we did this year, teams whove got a big physical corner will shut him down. He wants no part of any kinda physicality

  33. marcinhouston says: Jan 21, 2014 3:56 PM

    The Saints offense was statistically better when they did not have Jimmy Graham but they did have decent average offensive tackles. Jermon Bushrod made more an impact than Graham, because if you don’t have Graham you throw more to Colston and Moore who are pretty good, but if you don’t have Bushrod you throw to whoever is open before you can blink and get sacked, and the tall guy gets a lot of stats but the offense overall suffers. If Graham won’t take reasonable money, the Saints can trade him, and Brees can make the offense work with an average TE if he has time to throw.

  34. ricksaints says: Jan 21, 2014 4:37 PM

    He is a TE. Was drafted as a TE. There is no rule that states a TE must line up next to a tackle on every play. If they want to make away with the TE position and call them all receivers then that is one thing. But as long as there is a “Tight End” position I can see the cash strapped Saints have to Franchise tag him as a TE. As a TE they might be able to afford to tag him up to two years if they can’t figure a way to sign him to a long term deal.

  35. southernpatriots says: Jan 22, 2014 4:10 PM

    Loomis and Payton said they would do that before Brees signed his huge extension.

    Brees said his contract (his huge extension) is being renegotiated every year to allow room under the cap to sign players. This year it will be Graham.

    Graham is on record many times saying, he will retire when Brees retires. He does not want to keep playing or play somewhere else.

    Graham will get a huge contract, probably negotiated and signed before the deadline. Then Graham needs to take some of that and pay Tony Gonzalez who is now retired, to take a weekend or week and teach Graham moves to establish distance from tight coverage, to be very aggressive off the line and generally be successful as Tony was everywhere he went in his career.

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