The New Orleans Saints have always been expected to use the franchise tag on superstar tight end Jimmy Graham, and the tag is also expected to be the tight end tag instead of the wide receiver tag. Graham has fought as hard as possible to receive the WR designation under the tag, and his case is that he’s lined up in the slot so often that he should count as a wide receiver. It’s an unrealistic and illogical argument to believe in, but it’s perfectly logical for Graham and his camp to argue for receiving more money. But nowadays, “joker” tight ends like Graham and Jordan Reed are simply expected to line up in the slot to take advantage of their great pass-catching talents and ability to cause mis-matches. The TE tag will slowly catch up to the WR tag, but guys like Graham will have to be paid much less under the TE tag in the meantime.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Saints will tag Graham before Monday’s deadline, and, as Schefter notes, nobody should be surprised in the least bit at this news. The Saints have always wanted to keep their star TE by any means necessary, and it always looked like GM Mickey Loomis would have to slap the tag on the Miami product in order to keep him from hitting the open market. It will be interesting to see how negotiations on a long-term deal go, especially following Dennis Pitta’s five-year, $32 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens. While Pitta isn’t as talented as Graham, he’s a great TE in his own right and is used in a similar way to Graham. Like Jared Cook last year and Graham this year, Pitta also argued for the WR tag, but his arguments were futile. He isn’t getting paid much on an annual basis (roughly $6.4 million, which is right about the tag number for tight ends), but he is getting plenty of long-term security.
Graham, who caught 86 passes for over 1,200 yards and a ridiculous 16 touchdowns last season, will likely get paid a few million dollars more per year than Pitta, and he’s itching to absolutely break the bank. I would be surprised if both sides can’t agree on a very lucrative long-term deal, and Graham will be paid a hefty amount at some point this offseason.