Now that the 2013 NFL season is finished for the New Orleans Saints following their 23-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round Playoffs, the offseason begins. New Orleans, the front office, and head coach Sean Payton must begin the task of preparing for the next season.
Thankfully for the Saints, most of the house is in order. Quarterback Drew Brees has already been locked up for the long term, versatile running back Darren Sproles is still under contract for another year, as is Mark Ingram. Marques Colston, New Orleans’ all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns is also secured for several more years.
Defensively, under new coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints corrected their problems from just a year ago when they allowed a record setting 7,042 yards to opposing offenses. Rookie Kenny Vaccaro will return next season after he proved to be a valuable commodity to the defense, and others like Victor Butler and Will Smith will return to the team healthy and ready to play in the 2014 season.
One of the most important issues, if not the most important, is the free agent status of All-Star tight Jimmy Graham. Graham has shown his value to the team with his huge size and athleticism, leading the league in touchdowns in 2013. New Orleans will want to lock him up for the long term and he is likely to get a contract that surpasses that of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who recently received a six-year deal worth approximately $54 million.
Whether Graham and the the Saints are able to come to terms with some kind of deal or he is given the franchise tag, he is unlikely to leave the team. If he is given the franchise tag, there will likely be a dispute over whether he is a tight end or a wide receiver. Though listed as a tight end, he spent a lot of time in the receiver spots. A wide receiver status would also net him more money over that of a tight end.
Either way, Graham will likely be a member of the Saints’ organization for several years to come. He is just too good to let him get away.