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Graham’s Godzilla Contract

By. Nick Ducote

The New Orleans Saints have an off-season riddled with a multi-million dollar question.  How will they be able to pay for tight end Jimmy Graham?  The young player is poised to sign a humungous contract, but for how much?  Right now the Saints have the toughest offseason since 2010/11, which saw Super Bowl winning veterans leave for greener pastures.

 

However, no team in the NFL can compare to the amount of players we have on the roster that are free agents with this much talent.  As of right now the Saints free agent list extends to twenty-three players, much of who are starters for the Saints.

 

New Orleans Saints Unrestricted Free Agents:

 

-Malcolm Jenkins/Safety

-Jimmy Graham/Tight End

-Zach Streif/Offensive Tackle

-Jonathan Vilma/Middle Linebacker

-Brian DeLaPuente/ Center

-Parys Haralson/ Outside Linebacker

-Charles Brown/ Offensive Tackle

-Robert Meachem/Wide Receiver

-Kenyon Coleman/ Defensive End

-Will Herring/Outside Linebacker

-Ramon Humber/Outside Linebacker

-Luke McCown/Quarterback

-Keyunta Dawson/Defensive End

-Shayne Graham/Kicker

 

The players that stand out from the UFA, (unrestricted free agents), are players such as Malcolm Jenkins, Jimmy Graham, Brian DeLaPuente and Zack Streif.  All of them have been key contributors to the team for the past two seasons and are going to be signed to new contracts.

 

Recently, there has been talk of letting tackle Zack Streif test the free agent market.  If the Saints can’t match the price of another team that want him that badly, then look for the Saints to draft an offensive tackle in the upcoming draft.

 

Additional players such as Kenyon Coleman, Ramon Humber and Charles Brown will be retained with small contracts by the black and gold.  Those players will be kept around for depth at their positions.  Each player has flashes of talent and each will give the team some effort to play harder.

 

The “white whale” of the free agent market and not just the Saints is Jimmy Graham.  The whole offseason is directed towards the Pro Bowl tight end and keeping him in a Saints uniform.  Sadly, Graham has vocalized to our dismay the disappointment of getting a franchise tag put on him.

 

He was recently interviewed at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii by the NFL Network.  Graham was quoted saying that the franchise tag on him would be “unfortunate.”  The small disagreement some analysts have with Graham is whether he should be paid as a wide receiver or a tight end.

 

He lined up as a wide receiver more than he did as a tight end this year.  He also led the NFL in touchdowns(16) and receptions.  The New England Patriots just recently paid over $9 million for their All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.

 

That amount could give Loomis and the Saints some idea of what Graham should be paid.  So the question again is if the Saints can’t pay him the amount he wants this year, then should they tag him as a tight end or receiver?  The tight end tag amount is $6 million, while the wide receiver tag amount is $10.6 million.

 

It all comes down to Mickey Loomis, and what he and Graham can agree on. Loomis was vocal during the College Senior Bowl and during the Pro Bowl.  He was quoted saying “we drafted him as a tight end, we will pay him as a tight end.” Hopefully this ends any negative press surrounding the situation between Graham and the Saints.

 

Luckily for the Saints the time has come to let go of several players.  As a result, this means more money for the Saints to pay Graham with.  Veteran players such as Roman Harper, Will Smith, and Jabari Greer all had a rough year and all are up in age.

 

Releasing these specific players would release over ten million dollars in cap space for the Saints.  There are also the contracts of several players the Saints will be looking to restructure.

 

Drew Brees is the main contract that is being disputed at the moment.  Our quarterback has not played well in the playoffs in the past two seasons, and was the main reason we have had a hard time winning games in the post season.

 

Interceptions and inaccurate throws have made it hard for the Black and Gold to stay consistent outside of the Superdome.  So now he will be looked to for a pay cut.  Hopefully, the pay cuts will leave an amount humble enough for Graham to stay and continue to win with us.

 

The Saints also have the small list of restricted free agents to look forward to this offseason.  Thankfully, it’s only five players, but players we definitely need.  Starting wide receiver Joe Morgan, and fullback Jed Collins are guys the Saints have relied upon for the past two seasons and have produced well for us when healthy.

 

Backup safety Rafael Bush, fullback Jeremiha Hunter, and defensive end Tom Johnson, also are solid players who the Black and Gold need for next season.  All are mid range to elite players that just need some time and a good contract to play well for us next season.

 

But nothing is certain until March 3rd.  That is the official last day for franchise tags to be distributed.  Hopefully the Who Dats can put something together for our best player to stay happy down here.

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