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What does the future hold for Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints?

Graham comes up for contract renewal this season.
Graham comes up for contract renewal this season.
Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

There is no question that the New Orleans Saints do not want to lose star tight end Jimmy Graham. According to ESPN on Jan. 21, the Saints don't plan on letting Graham go and plan to slap a franchise tag on him of they are forced.

Jimmy Graham's contract is up and now the heat is on the Saints to retain him. After the 2013 season, Graham is expected to become the highest paid tight end in the history of the NFL. He certainly deserves it too. With 16 touchdown passes in the last season, the Saints need Jimmy Graham on their team. He is one of the best tight ends in the league and he has a huge impact on the team.

If he is given a franchise tag, that will buy the Saints another year before the epic salary negotiations and they might be forced to do it. They do have a salary cap after all. The issue now though is the debate as to whether Graham really is a tight end or if he is a wide receiver.

He was certainly drafted as a tight end and billed as one too. However, two-thirds of the time, Graham lines up as a receiver. While this has become more common in the NFL, it can affect Graham's bottom line in the upcoming year.

If the franchise tag is used, there is a pretty big difference between the required pay of a receiver over a tight end. We're talking $10.5 million to a wide receiver and $6 million to a tight end. Jimmy Graham is certainly worth the larger paycheck.

The Saints would prefer to negotiate a long-term contract with Graham and secure his place on the team for many years. If forced to go the other route, you can believe that a longer contract will be planned in the future.

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