The Saints and Jimmy Graham are “closing in” on a long-term contract agreement that would make the tight end the highest-paid player at his position in NFL history, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). In spite of Graham’s decision to appeal an arbitrator’s ruling on his positional designation, there’s optimism that a deal will be agreed upon by tomorrow’s deadline, according to Schefter.
As I wrote earlier this afternoon, the fact that Graham’s camp appealed arbitrator Stephen Burbank‘s decision that he should be considered a tight end rather than a receiver for franchise tag purposes isn’t necessarily a sign that a long-term extension is unlikely. That appeal just ensures that Graham can attempt to maximize his 2014 earnings, should a multiyear deal not be reached — it could also serve as leverage in talks with New Orleans, since the team would have to account for the fact that a three-person appeals board could overrule Burbank’s decision, making Graham’s franchise tag worth $12.312MM rather than $7.035MM.
In any case, it appears that appeal will be moot, since Graham’s camp and the NFLPA believe the standout pass catcher will have a deal in place with the Saints by tomorrow at 3:00pm central time, tweets Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
When I broke down Graham’s situation this morning, I predicted that the two sides would negotiate an extension worth in the neighborhood of $10MM+ per year, with close to $20MM in guaranteed money, assuming it’s a long-term deal.