Jimmy Graham: ‘real unfortunate’ to hear Saints might give him franchise tag

File this one under “obvious.”

Jimmy Graham isn’t pumped at the thought that the Saints will use the franchise tag on him if they can’t reach a new multiyear contract with him.

“That’s real unfortunate,” Graham said following Friday’s practice at the Pro Bowl, according to the NFL’s website. He added that he understood it was the Saints’ right to slap the tag on him, which would keep him in New Orleans through the 2014 season; but he would rather not play on a one-year deal.

“I’m not keen on the franchise tag, … but that is really all I have to say about that one,” said Graham, one of five Saints selected to the Pro Bowl this year.

Graham is reaching the end of the contract he accepted when he was a rookie in 2010, and he is due to become a free agent March 11 if the Saints don’t reach a new agreement with him or hand him the franchise tag.

Many believe Graham deserves to be the highest-paid tight end in NFL history and that he’s worthy of $10 million a year. He led the NFL in the regular season with 16 touchdown catches and the Saints with 1,215 yards receiving, good enough to make him New Orleans’ only player to earn First-Team All-Pro honors.

He produced well even though he played through a foot injury for more than half of the season, in which the Saints won 12 games and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs. When defenses schemed to limit him, that opened up opportunities for teammates.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis on Tuesday confirmed the Saints would franchise-tag Graham if necessary, which wasn’t surprising.

However, it’s expected that Graham’s representatives would argue that the All-Pro player should be a wide receiver and not a tight end for the purposes of the franchise tag, given his statistics and the fact that he spends the majority of his time on the gridiron lined up as a wideout.

At least one projection estimates the 2014 franchise tag for a tight end will be $6.7 million; for a wide receiver it’s $11.6 million.

Loomis has said it’s no debate to him whether Graham is a tight end or a receiver.

“Isn’t that what we drafted him as?” Loomis said when asked whether the Saints viewed Graham as a tight end. “Isn’t that what he made the Pro Bowl as?”

The Saints will be seeking out a multiyear contract with Graham and deciding what to do with 14 other players about to become unrestricted free agents while trying to get under a salary cap that they’re reportedly several millions of dollars over.