Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in the NFL, but will the Saints have to pay him like a wide receiver? (Wesley Hitt/Getty)
One of the biggest offseason priorities for the New Orleans Saints will be locking up star tight end Jimmy Graham to a long-term deal. However, for salary cap purposes, the Saints may be forced to place the franchise tag on the NFL's top tight end, and that's where things get thorny.
"I'm not keen on the franchise tag," Graham said Friday after a Pro Bowl practice, according to NFL.com. "That would be really unfortunate, but that's really all I have to say about that. That's real unfortunate. If that happens, it doesn't really matter what I prefer."
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Graham, who caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and an NFL-leading 16 touchdowns last year, would be an interesting test case for the franchise tag. New Orleans would likely tag him as a tight end, his officially listed position, and the position at which he was listed for Pro Bowl voting. The franchise tag salary for a tight end last year was just under $6 million. However, Graham's representatives will likely argue that the Saints would have to tag Graham as a wide receiver, since he lines up split wide on many snaps. The salary for a franchise-tagged wide receiver last year was over $10.3 million, a difference of more than $4 million.
In four seasons with the Saints, Graham has caught 301 passes for 3,863 yards and 41 TDs.