The Saints haven’t, and won’t, use the ruling that Jimmy Graham is a tight end for franchise tag purposes to alter a proposal that would make Graham the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, with a package worth $9.5 million per year.
And the team remains very confident that a long-term deal will be reached by the July 15 deadline. At $9.5 million per year with a considerable chunk of fully guaranteed money up front, Graham will have a hard time rejecting the offer and taking a year-to-year approach that would pay $7 million in 2014, $8.4 million in 2015, and quarterback money of $16 million or so in 2016.
That’s $30 million over three years, but with Graham carrying the injury risk each and every season. If the Saints fully guarantee an amount equal or greater to the first two years ($15.4 million) and offer a total package in the range of $30 million over the first three years, it’s a no-brainer that Graham will take the offer.
After finishing as the #2 TE in 2011, Graham has been the top tight end in back-to-back seasons. He played through a plantar fascia injury for the last half of the season and still averaged 4.4 catches for 56 yards and 0.83 TD. While his yardage was down from his per game average in 2011 and 2012 (74 yards per game), he more than made up for it in the touchdown department. With the arbitration ruling behind them, it sounds as if it's just a matter of time before the two sides agree on a long-term contract.