Arbitrator Steve Burbank unsurprisingly ruled that New Orleans Saints superstar pass-catcher Jimmy Graham is a tight end, setting the all-important precedent that would hurt Julius Thomas, Eric Ebron, and others if they were to be in a situation where the franchise tag would be applicable. A bargain under the tight end tag at around $7 million, Graham must be even more dead-set on milking as much as possible on a long-term deal after losing a $5.3 million decision (difference between the lucrative WR tag and the not-so-lucrative tight end tag).
Even though the Saints “won” the tag decision, they haven’t decided to play hardball (some would call it “dirty”) by decreasing their offer or low-balling Graham in some way. According to a source close to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, GM Mickey Loomis and the Saints have not changed- or even rescinded, which would be impossible to envision- their previous long-term offer to Graham. It still stands at a nice $9.5 million per year, and it would make him the highest-paid TE in history, which is what he deserves based on how contracts progress.
We’ll see if Graham appeals the tag decision, but it’s in his best interest to work out a solid deal with the Saints. They clearly view him as a big priority after he hauled in a whopping 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. By far the best red zone weapon in the game, Graham is a monster who creates mis-matches at will, and the Saints are giving him a contract loaded with cash- plenty of it is guaranteed. I firmly believe the July 15 deadline will pass with a long-term deal in place, but we’ll see what they settle on and when a deal is finally reached. The Saints obviously understand that Graham would have been crazy not to seek as much money as possible under the tag, so the only battle is getting him to sign a long-term deal; that’s always been the goal, and I’m sure Graham would also like to agree to something.