Now that Jimmy Graham has been officially hit with the franchise tag, his next contract could go in a number of different directions. In normal situations, a franchised player has two options: either play the next season under the tag number for your position or continue to work on a long-term agreement.
However, for the Saints’ pass catcher, it is not so simple.Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk outlined ten key points about the Graham situation, including the obvious controversy about which position Graham should be franchised as. Graham will argue that he lined up as a receiver more often than as a tight end, and the Saints will argue that all tight ends move around the formation, and no receiver actually lines up next to the tackle during a play.
Florio also notes that the two sides have until July 15 to come to terms on the long-term deal.
In signing a long-term extension, Graham will likely also argue that he should be paid like one of the most productive receivers in the NFL. Andrew Cohen of OvertTheCap.com sees Rob Gronkowski‘s six year, $54MM deal as the baseline for his long-term negotiation. Still, he sees that Graham has better leverage as Gronkowski had two years left on his deal, with a much longer injury history and a smaller salary cap to work under.
Cohen also sees the possibility, while unlikely, that a team offers Graham a contract in the hopes that the Saints will not match. Though the team will have to send the Saints two first-round draft picks for the opportunity to pay Graham, he believes this could be a worthwhile decision for either the Dolphins or the Jets. Both teams have the salary cap space to offer a frontloaded contract with a big signing bonus, and he writes that they are unlikely to find a better offensive weapon in the draft.