NFC South Notes: Graham, Falcons, Saints

Earlier this week, the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham agreed to a four-year, $40MM deal that gives him $21MM in guaranteed money. Graham lost his battle to be classified as a wide receiver, but he still came away with a hefty contract that makes him the highest paid TE in league history. Graham has been the league’s most consistent and productive tight end over the last three years, averaging 90 receptions, 1,169 yards, and 12 touchdowns per season during that span. Here’s more on Graham and other items out of the NFC South..

  • The Saints are essentially in “buy now, pay later” mode after giving Graham that contract, writes Jason Fitzgerald of the Sporting News. The Saints now have five top-of-the-market contracts on the roster with quarterback Drew Brees (fourth highest contract among quarterbacks), safety Jairus Byrd (second among safeties), guard Jahri Evans (third among guards) and punter Thomas Morstead (third among punters). In order to employ all these top-tier contract players within the salary cap, the Saints use large signing bonuses and escalating base salaries over the course of the contract.
  • Vaughn McClure of (on Twitter) won’t be surprised if the Falcons announced before training camp that safety Zeke Motta (neck surgery) will be out for the season. That could lead to a release of the 2013 seventh-round pick.
  • Quarterbacks aside, Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune argues that the newly-signed Graham is the best skill-position player (other than quarterback) in Saints history. Graham is one of just three Saints skill-position players to earn first-team All-Pro honors in his career.
  • Graham told Alex Restrepo of that he wants to bring another Super Bowl to the Saints franchise. “I’m beyond excited,” Graham said Tuesday night. “I didn’t get into to football to learn litigation. I got into football to win games with my teammates, friends and coaches. I am extremely happy to get back to what it’s really about.”
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