As expected, the Saints used the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham. But unlike the Panthers and Greg Hardy -- who has already signed his franchise tender -- don't expect Graham to rush to put ink to paper for a one-year deal that will pay him $7 million as a tight end instead of the $12.3 million he'd like to get as a wide receiver.
Technically, yes, Graham is a tight end, but according to ProFootballFocus.com, Graham lined up at tight end 33 percent of the time in 2013, in the slot 45 percent of the time, and at wide receiver 21 percent of the time. So there is an argument to be made there. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis' response during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via PFT).: “I haven't been through this process. That remains to be seen.”
Still, the hope is that the two sides can agree on a long-term deal. When, however, is another matter.
“These negotiations are always a process, and Jimmy's been a great player for us for the last four years,” said Loomis. “Look, I had hoped and I'm sure he had hoped we'd come to some conclusion on a longer-term deal before this. But we haven't yet, and hopefully we will. ... We'll just let it play out, and I'm sure we'll get something resolved.”
Back in February, Saints coach Sean Payton said that signing Graham to a big-money deal would mean tough decisions for the rest of the roster.
"The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on Year 9, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham," Payton said at the time. ...
"It's very easy to say 'you are certainly going to get this done' but you have to understand there is a budget here. That's the challenging part."
Despite the challenges of managing a roster in the salary-cap era, Graham is on of the league's most dynamic players. We're guessing the Saints do everything to keep him in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.