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Reports: New Orleans Saints, Jimmy Graham close to long-term deal

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The New Orleans Saints and Jimmy Graham are close to agreeing on a long-term deal that would make Graham the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

The two sides have a July 15 deadline to agree to a deal, but Schefter reported there was "optimism" that it would be completed by then. Pro Football Talk confirmed Schefter's report. 

Earlier Monday, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Graham would be appealing an arbiter's ruling that he could be franchise tagged as a tight end, not a wide receiver. The ruling, and the appeal, would be moot if the sides sign a long-term extension.

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In early July, arbiter Stephen Burbank ruled that Graham was a tight end, not a wide receiver as he was claiming. The dispute arose from the Saints' use of the franchise tag on Graham: Tagging him as a tight end earned Graham a salary of $7.035 million, but Graham argued that he should be tagged as a receiver due to his pass-catching responsibilities and his frequent positioning both in the slot and split wide as a receiver. Tagging Graham as a receiver would earn him $12.312 million. 

Graham argued that the fact he lined up in the slot or split wide on 67 percent of plays last season made him a wide receiver. The Saints used Graham's Twitter bio, among other justifications, to argue that he was a tight end. 

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Last season, Graham caught 86 passes for 1215 yards and 16 TDs. He was named first-team All-Pro. 

- Alex Hampl 

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