Earlier today, ProFootballTalk reported that the New Orleans Saints had made an initial contract offer to tight end Jimmy Graham, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. Graham’s rookie contract has already paid him almost $2 million in his first three years, and he is slated to receive another $1.323 this season.
Earlier reports this summer said that Graham was not worried about his contract expiring at the end of the season. “I’m a humble kid from very humble beginnings and I feel blessed to be in the situation that I am in,” Graham said in July. “All I’m going to do is go out here and play football. I know that’s what I’m best at and I know the rest will just take care of itself.”
Graham and his team of handlers apparently have not yet responded to the offer made by New Orleans. It’s likely that Graham wants to continue to play through the season, which is not a surprise considering how dominate his performance through three games has been thus far. At this point, Graham leads all tight ends in receiving with 358 yards and is third overall, trailing only Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons and DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles. Graham’s four touchdowns put him in a four-way tie for second most.
The Graham-Saints contract situation is a delicate one, and is unlikely to be resolved soon. Remember that New Orleans even dragged their feet when Super Bowl winning quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees was looking for his long-term, big money pay day. Brees eventually got his deal, but it was only after much procrastination and when Brees and his camp had the most leverage they could get. The Saints want to keep Graham and lock him up long term, but they also want to pay him as little as they can get away with. This is a business, after all, and money doesn’t grow on trees.
As long as Graham stays healthy, he should be able to expect a big payday. He might be hit with the franchise tag after the season, at which point the Saints and Graham would probably devolve into an argument about whether he should be paid tight end money or wide receiver money. Either way, Graham is going to get paid, as long as he stays healthy.