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Saints apply non-exclusive tag to Graham

Graham Getty Images

Two years ago, the Saints used the exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees.  The higher investment (more on that later) prevented another team from signing Brees to an offer sheet that the Saints couldn’t or wouldn’t match, pilfering Brees for a pair of first-round draft picks.

This year, the Saints have opted for the non-exclusive version of the tag on tight end Jimmy Graham, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.

The move paves the way for another team to woo Graham and ultimately to sign him to an offer sheet.  If the Saints can’t or won’t match, Graham would change teams in exchange for a pair of first-round picks.

The question becomes whether a team with a low first-round pick in 2014 and that expects to have a low first-round pick in 2015 would be willing to pay Graham $12 million or more annually for one of the best non-quarterbacks in the league.  (In theory, a team could wait until after the draft to make a run at Graham, giving up first-round picks in 2015 and 2016 if the Saints don’t match.)

The Saints presumably don’t believe that another team would pay Graham what he wants and give up two first-round picks; otherwise, the Saints would have used the exclusive version of the tag.  Doing so, however, would have raised the stakes on the question of whether he’s a receiver or a tight end, pushing Graham’s maximum tender to the average of the five highest cap numbers in 2014 for receivers, as determined in April.

With the top cap numbers currently belonging to Mike Wallace ($17.25 million), Andre Johnson ($15.6 million), Percy Harvin ($13.4 million), Calvin Johnson ($13 million), DeSean Jackson ($12.75 million), the average would have been $14.4 million — $2.1 million more than the non-exclusive tag of $12.3 million.  Restructurings in the coming weeks, however, could have driven the average down considerably.

For example, Larry Fitzgerald’s 2014 cap number dropped from $18 million to $8.6 million last month.  If Fitzgerald’s contract hadn’t been restructured, the average would have been $15.45 million.  If Wallace or Johnson drop their cap numbers to below Harvin’s, the gap would be much smaller.

Regardless, the Saints have opted to roll the dice on the question of whether another team will break the bank for Graham.  If the Saints guessed wrong, and if they choose not to match any offer sheet Graham signs, they’ll have to try to replace him with a pair of first-round picks.

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54 Responses to “Saints apply non-exclusive tag to Graham”
  1. 00maybe00next00year00 says: Mar 1, 2014 10:32 AM

    Seahawks

  2. maverick0 says: Mar 1, 2014 10:36 AM

    Could see Seattle possibly dipping their toe in on this. Use this years first round pick on a WR to team with a full year of Harvin. Give up the first rounders for ’15 and ’16. Would put their offense in line with their defense.

  3. erock27 says: Mar 1, 2014 10:42 AM

    Belichek

  4. canetic says: Mar 1, 2014 10:43 AM

    Look of that list of five highest paid receivers. Only one of them worth it (Megatron).

  5. thevikesarebest says: Mar 1, 2014 10:46 AM

    The aints are overrated.it will show when we go into the superdome next year and beat them with no problem.SKOL

  6. stealthscorpio says: Mar 1, 2014 10:46 AM

    Pats…Brady only has another couple years left…

  7. Chachi Flores says: Mar 1, 2014 10:49 AM

    Bye Rob Gronkowski, hello Jimmy Graham.

  8. tjacks7 says: Mar 1, 2014 10:50 AM

    Mike Wallace is the highest paid receiver in the league? What a joke.

  9. packerbackernj says: Mar 1, 2014 10:51 AM

    Drew Brees and Sean Payton created Jimmy Graham. To think he could go to a team like, say, the Vikings and do what he does in New Orleans is absurd to even think.

  10. west2south2east2north says: Mar 1, 2014 10:53 AM

    I just have one question folks. Is he worth 2 first round draft picks to join your team?

  11. therealbillybuffalo says: Mar 1, 2014 10:54 AM

    Man this makes a ton of sense for Atlanta to do this after the draft.

  12. bbourque5 says: Mar 1, 2014 10:57 AM

    Of all teams, Seattle should know how invisible Graham can be at times. Right?

  13. qdog112 says: Mar 1, 2014 11:06 AM

    Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham …?

  14. yooperman says: Mar 1, 2014 11:09 AM

    If he spent 60% at WR and 40% at TE, why not pro rate it.

    Receiver: $12,312,000 x .60 = $7,387,000
    Tight end: $7,035,000 x .40 = $2,814,000
    $7,387,000 + $2,814,000 = $10,201,000

    That wasn’t hard.

  15. troybrown80 says: Mar 1, 2014 11:10 AM

    Really sick of all you Seattle bandwagon fans. Every time there’s a story about a player you instantly assume you’re the front runner. By far most annoying fan base in sports

  16. 4thqtrsaint says: Mar 1, 2014 11:10 AM

    Step right up & buy yourself a semi-invisible, non-blocking TE/WR!! He’ll scare your defenses into putting a CB, a foot smaller than him, to guard him!
    This can be yours for 2 1st rd picks, and a mere 12 million a year!

  17. scmems07 says: Mar 1, 2014 11:10 AM

    wallace is not the highest paid reciever, johnson is, wallace’s contract has the bulk of his contract in the 2nd year, 1st year was a $3 mil cap hit and and 3rd year is around $7 mil with an option for the team to opt out after the 3rd year.

  18. gudy2shoes says: Mar 1, 2014 11:17 AM

    There maybe chemistry concerns for Graham and the Seahawks, both personal and $$$$, when so many other Seahawks need to get paid.

  19. slaugin says: Mar 1, 2014 11:18 AM

    The Patriots are one of the most stingy teams when it comes to picks and is ways looking for “value” in contracts. Not.Gonna.Happen

  20. tonyc920 says: Mar 1, 2014 11:23 AM

    NO WAY Seattle goes after Graham. They have cap issues the way it is. They just released 2 key players to get under the cap.
    Now I could see Miami or one of the teams with more than $30 mil under the cap make an offer, But 2 first round picks ? That’s almost as bad as a poison pill. No one will give up that much. He stays in N.O.

  21. chawk12thman says: Mar 1, 2014 11:28 AM

    Is he worth a 32 pick and 64th pick? I would say yes and hope that the Seahawks look at this as a possibility. If they wanted to make this happen they already have made some significant cap space that likely was primarily geared towards signing Bennett, Tate, Baldwin, and Hauschka. They would likely need to cut Zac Miller (5M cap savings; 7 M total) as they couldn’t afford to pay that much money for the TE Position.

    Front load the contract to pay him 11 Million in 2014 and then 10 Million for the next 4 years. This could work and would help the Seahawks tremendously.

    Go Hawks!

  22. gudy2shoes says: Mar 1, 2014 11:29 AM

    On one hand, the Seahawks will most likely have the last pick of the first round for the next 2 or 3 years. But on the other hand, we don’t need Bruce Irvin beating up the new guy.

  23. dcapettini says: Mar 1, 2014 11:35 AM

    There is a reason that TE’s have the lowest tag amount after kickers. I wouldn’t even pay the $12m for any TE and damn few receivers, much less give up the picks too. The only truly invaluable player is the franchise QB. Everyone else is more or less replaceable, particularly if you have a low first round pick.

  24. robf2010 says: Mar 1, 2014 11:35 AM

    “Step right up & buy yourself a semi-invisible, non-blocking TE/WR!!”

    He had 2, count ‘em, 2 bad games of the 18 he played last season. He’s still learning the position. He has gotten better every year.

    Any player on your team that didn’t have at least two bad or “invisible” games last season? If so, name that player.

  25. bert1913 says: Mar 1, 2014 11:42 AM

    the seahawks are a run first offense. the te’s and wr’s must be very good blockers. graham can’t/won’t block for anybody, besides graham would have “cap” issues with bruce irving.

  26. officialgame says: Mar 1, 2014 11:44 AM

    Since the new rookie wage scale was implemented nobody has or will ever do that for a non QB. It makes no sense for a team to give up two #1’s then pay Graham on average around 10% of a its CAP space.

  27. 3yardsndust says: Mar 1, 2014 11:45 AM

    Mostly this story leaves me with the impression that the Dolphins are idiots for paying Mike Wallace so much. Makes no sense!!!

  28. chaseutley says: Mar 1, 2014 12:04 PM

    Give up 2 first round picks and (roughly) 10% of the salary cap for a tight end? I wouldn’t want my team to do that unless it was looking at a 1-2-year Super Bowl window.

  29. jeremycrowhurst says: Mar 1, 2014 12:05 PM

    He would be a valuable addition to a team that passes 650 times a year, like New England or Detroit, but not to a team that passes 450 times, like Seattle (or a team that can’t pass at all, like the Vikings).

    As for the two first-round picks, it’s a bargain. You hope to get a perennial All-Pro player once every decade out of your first rounders. Here you give up two, and you don’t have to pay for him to develop.

  30. kuya206 says: Mar 1, 2014 12:06 PM

    No way the Seahawks go after Graham. We need to re-sign & extend our own players first. Like what M. Bennett said, he’s soft and overrated.

  31. zeddicuszorander says: Mar 1, 2014 12:09 PM

    Man there is a lot more Seattle fans now than 4 years ago. They’ve always had a rabid core of fans….but if you live in the northwest you can see the bandwagons for miles around. Pathetic.

  32. htowntexansred says: Mar 1, 2014 12:28 PM

    Jimmy Graham don’t worth two 1st round picks! Are you crazy! Whomever make this move needs to fire the GM on spot!

  33. carlsbadboltfan says: Mar 1, 2014 12:29 PM

    As much as I hate to say it, something tells me that the Pats will grab him. If Gronk is healthy, these two TE’s could extend Brady’s career.

  34. steves11 says: Mar 1, 2014 12:30 PM

    Graham showed his true colors against the Eagles weak pass defense in the playoffs…only 3 catches for 36 yards, or something like that. Pretty pathetic against the likes of Patrick Chung and company!

  35. purplengold1975 says: Mar 1, 2014 12:33 PM

    Graham will not leave Saints. If there is a GM willing to give up 2 first round picks for a tight end…..he should be fired. Saints did this knowing that if anyone made an offer, with the high price of 2 picks, the dollar amount will be lower than the price of a w.r. (which he WILL be tendered at). They can then match the offer and keep Graham at a lower cost than the WR tag would have cost them.

  36. mp42245 says: Mar 1, 2014 12:34 PM

    Harvin had 15 1/2 invisible games. Oh wait, you need to actually be healthy to play big boy football.

  37. nflsucker says: Mar 1, 2014 12:35 PM

    Funny, the takeaway I see is that Percy Harvin makes about 1 mil per play. Sweet.

  38. unomasmore says: Mar 1, 2014 12:42 PM

    With the new rules and the way Db’s are hitting. Tight Ends, if be very Leary of giving up so much for a Tight End. Your star Tight End will
    suffer a terrible injury in this new NFL it seems.

  39. stataddict says: Mar 1, 2014 12:46 PM

    I have changed my mind on this, after finding this in the CBA:

    Section 7.

    Salary Information:

    (a)No later than February 1 of each League Year during the term of this Agreement, the NFL shall compile and disclose to the NFLPA a list of each of the five and ten largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the following positions which shall be utilized for calculating the average Prior Year Salaries of players at the positions of Franchise Players and Transition Players: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Line, Defensive End, Interior Defensive Line, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, and Kicker/Punter.

    If, over the past couple of seasons, Gronkowski, Witten, V. Davis or Gates played more snaps in the slot or outside than as an in-line player and the NFLPA did not grieve including their salaries for the compilation of top Tight End salaries, then Graham’s people won’t have a prayer at winning a grievance over his designation at tight end.

  40. beavertonsteve says: Mar 1, 2014 1:08 PM

    I can’t wait until some NFL team decides to franchise a CB as a Safety because they spent over 50% of their time covering slot receivers and TEs.

  41. kordogg says: Mar 1, 2014 1:08 PM

    The Saints are trying to either scare teams off, or get two first round picks for a player who wants a lot of money. I could see Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Cleveland, Oakland, Texans, or even Chargers making that kind of move. People say New England but come on. They never make this type of move. Too much to invest in a player who is going to cripple your salary cap. He will probably help any teams offense but two first rounds is a lot to ask. Typical scare tactic by a team with everything to lose if he leaves.

  42. anonymous135 says: Mar 1, 2014 1:13 PM

    I became a Seahawks fan a few seasons ago, but I’m surprised at how the fan base all pretty much came to the same conclusions here.. lol

    I guess since we have the least value in our picks – but more importantly is that we have the coach and front office that would/could pull it off… that’s kind of awesome that have that kind of confidence an faith in your club.

    I agree TE is a position to be upgraded but the young guys were solid… rather them devote that to the draft.. they’ve done well there. Big money needs to be re-invested within the team.

    Anyways, I do hope a team does pull this coup off.. Jimmy Graham is worth it and I didn’t think the Saints would be dumb enough to risk losing him.

    If he doesn’t get an offer from anyone.. COLLUSION to the max lol

  43. wyntyrmute says: Mar 1, 2014 1:38 PM

    Seattle doesn’t really make sense, it’s not like Russell Wilson throws the ball consistently or well to get the needed value from Graham.

  44. raytc20 says: Mar 1, 2014 1:39 PM

    When is a player worth 2 first round picks?
    Trent Richardson
    Brandon Weeden
    Sorry Cleveland.

  45. keltictim says: Mar 1, 2014 1:40 PM

    Jimmy and rob gronkowski would be great. Almost as good as when we had the killer and rob.

  46. jayblack073 says: Mar 1, 2014 3:06 PM

    Any derpy Hawks fans that think Jimmy Graham would or should come here need to rethink what our team is really about. Jimmy ain’t nothing but a little biatch we don’t want his soft behind anywhere near our team. Go to the Forty-Whiners, they love complainers.

  47. omniscient48 says: Mar 1, 2014 3:40 PM

    What I don’t understand is what if the team that signs him doesn’t have first round picks for the next several years having traded them away?

  48. briang123 says: Mar 1, 2014 4:16 PM

    I was in a coma until right before the playoffs, and I saw both Saints playoff games, but I have no idea who this Jimmy Graham guy is that you are talking about.

  49. ✦ Pittsburgh is the City of Champions ✦ says: Mar 1, 2014 4:17 PM

    In the end, God’s team (Steeler Nation) always prevails.

  50. moeman79 says: Mar 1, 2014 5:08 PM

    A team could spend 3 1St round picks and not find a TE or WR as good as this guy….someone might bite.

  51. 6thsense10 says: Mar 1, 2014 6:00 PM

    stataddict says:
    Mar 1, 2014 12:46 PM

    I have changed my mind on this, after finding this in the CBA:

    Section 7.

    Salary Information:

    (a)No later than February 1 of each League Year during the term of this Agreement, the NFL shall compile and disclose to the NFLPA a list of each of the five and ten largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the following positions which shall be utilized for calculating the average Prior Year Salaries of players at the positions of Franchise Players and Transition Players: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Line, Defensive End, Interior Defensive Line, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, and Kicker/Punter.

    If, over the past couple of seasons, Gronkowski, Witten, V. Davis or Gates played more snaps in the slot or outside than as an in-line player and the NFLPA did not grieve including their salaries for the compilation of top Tight End salaries, then Graham’s people won’t have a prayer at winning a grievance over his designation at tight end.
    —————————

    Neither Gronkowski, Witten, V. Davis, or Gates were ever slapped with the franchise tag so not sure how they would be similar to what Graham is going through. Reading the CBA Graham’s reps have pointed out a clause in the CBA that states the Franchise tag should be applied base on where the player lines up the majority of the time. All the players you listed worked out long term contracts and very well may have raised the same arguments Graham raised if their respective teams had franchised them.

    The Saints seem to always play hard ball with contract negotiations. They did it with Brees and now they are doing it with Graham and that’s ok…But it looks like Graham’s people are playing hardball also and if they don’t get a long term contract to their liking they will make sure the Saints pay as high a price as possible if they franchise him….and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s just business. Just like it was just business whenever the team cuts a player or forces them to take a paycut.

  52. thraiderskin says: Mar 1, 2014 10:12 PM

    This is the difference between being cheap and unsure. The Saints know what Graham brings and what he means to the offense. If there isn’t a question about what he can do for you and how you will continue to use him, then why not pay the man? Is it possible he is asking for too much? yes, but I would bet this has more to do with what the Saints’ want to pay him as.

  53. sb44champs says: Mar 3, 2014 8:43 AM

    Next to Green Bay, no other City supports their team as faithfully as the Who Dat Nation…True Dat!

  54. ghlatty says: Mar 5, 2014 7:34 AM

    Saints fan here who would hate to see Jimmy go, but…
    Saints have Ben Watson
    Saints haven’t had 2nd round picks for two years
    First round picks after the top 10 are fairly cheap.

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