Saints TE Jimmy Graham isn’t thrilled about the possibility of receiving with the team’s franchise tag instead of a long-term contract.
“I’m not keen on the franchise tag,” Graham said after Friday’s Pro Bowl practice, via ESPN. “If that happens, it doesn’t really matter what I prefer.”
Since being drafted by the Saints, Graham has cemented his place in the NFL as one of the best, if not the best, tight end in the league by racking up 301 catches for 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns during his four year career.
“That’s real unfortunate,” he said. “If that happens, it doesn’t really matter what I prefer.”
If the Saints were to tag Graham, the move would ultimately open up a heated battle as to whether or not Graham should be considered a tight end or a wide receiver.
“Isn’t that what we drafted him as? Isn’t that what he made the Pro Bowl as?” commented Saints GM Mickey Loomis who has made it clear that the team considers Graham a tight end. “That’s what we see him as, a tight end. … That’s what makes him valuable.”
There is a significant difference between being tagged as a receiver ($10,5 million) or a tight end ($6 million). Graham’s camp will likely argue that the Pro-Bowl tight end lined up as a receiver on 67 percent of his snaps in 2013 with just 33 percent of them coming as an in-line tight end.
To make matters worse for New Orleans, they are expected to be over the by close to $17 million next season, which means they will need to shed a lot of salary just to get down to the projected cap limit. Now, the Saints will have some easy ways to free up cap space such as releasing DE Will Smith, which would free up close to $11.5 million. Still, more moves would need to be made in order to ensure that they could cover a franchise tag that could come close to $10 million depending on whether or not Graham elects to challenge the tight end tag.
I’m sure the Saints would prefer to get a long-term deal hammered out rather than apply the franchise tag, but sometimes negotiations require more time, which is why we see teams tag a player and then work out a long-term deal in the coming months.
We have him listed as the No. 1 player in our Top 50 Free Agents list.