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Report: Saints GM will franchise Jimmy Graham as TE if needed

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

One way or the other, Jimmy Graham is staying in New Orleans. (USATSI)
One way or the other, it looks like Jimmy Graham is staying in New Orleans. (USATSI)

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Jimmy Graham might be at the end of this rookie contract, but there's no way the Saints are letting the NFL's most dynamic tight end out of New Orleans. Which means one of two things: 1) The team will sign him to a lucrative, long-term deal in the coming, or 2) he will be franchised.

And while the franchise tag isn't a bad deal, at least on paper (it's a one-year deal worth either the average of the top five salaries at that position or 120 percent of his prior year's salary, whichever is higher), there's one issue that might not sit well with Graham: According to WWL-TV, Loomis will franchise Graham ... as a tight end.

Yes, we know, Graham is a tight end. It says so right here. But here's the problem: For starters, according to former agent Joel Corry's preliminary estimates, the 2014 franchise amount for tight ends will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.7 million. Wide receivers, meanwhile, can expect roughly $11.5 million.

Why does that matter? Here's how Corry explained it back in November:

"Expect Graham to file a grievance to be classified as wide receiver if franchised since franchise tags are determined by the position where the player participated in the most plays during the prior season. Graham would gain tremendous leverage in negotiations by winning an arbitration hearing on his franchise-tag position because there will be close to a $5 million difference between the wide receiver and tight end franchise numbers in 2014."

As PFT notes, the Packers and Jermichael Finley faced a similar predicament before the two sides agreed on a two-year deal. But Graham, who is rated as the NFL's best tight end using both conventional statistics and advanced metrics, is in line for a much bigger payday.

Right now, the only question is how much will he make in 2014 and whether the Saints will pay him what he wants long-term.

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