Rain and cold may have ruined the Mardi Gras of Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, but the fear of not being able to reach a long-term deal with tight end Jimmy Graham had no effect on his day.
Loomis, speaking on the SiriusXM Blitz with Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon, said he thinks New Orleans can reach an agreement with Graham to keep him with the Saints for a long time.
“The negotiations are in the process, and Jimmy has been a great player for us for the last four years,” Loomis said.
“Look, I had hoped, and I’m sure he had hoped, that we would come to some conclusion on a longer-term deal before this, but we haven’t yet, and hopefully we will.”
Graham, who had 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns, received a nonexclusive franchise tag from the Saints last weekend. The nonexclusive tag gives him the freedom to negotiate with other teams, but a team must give the Saints two first-round picks if they sign him.
A point of contention between Graham and the Saints since the end of last season was how to classify his position in terms of a new deal, because there is a huge difference in pay for a player who is classified as a tight end as opposed to player who is classified as a receiver.
The NFL Management Council concluded Monday that Graham was to be classified as a tight end and set his salary at $7.053 million for next season with the franchise tag. If Graham were classified as a receiver, his salary would have been set for $12.132 million for next season.
Loomis isn’t sure that happens next in regards to the position classification of Graham.
“We haven't been through this process of that before,” Loomis said. “Look, all we do is franchise him, and then it’s out of our hands.”
According to NFL rules, Graham and the Saints have a deadline of July 15 to work out a new contract. If Graham and the Saints don’t reach a new deal by then, he can play under the franchise tag for 2014 or sit out.
The last day for Graham to sign a franchise tender is Nov. 11.
“I don’t really like to speculate about ‘Hey, what’s going to happen a month from now or three months from now or longer than that,’ ” Loomis said. “I think this: This is a process. A lot of teams have been through it. A lot of players have been through it. And it’s going to be, obviously, unique to Jimmy and us in terms of this particular one. But we’ll just let it play out, and I’m sure we’ll get something resolved.”
Graham to join USO tour
Graham, Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon and Dolphins punter Brandon Fields will join a USO tour of U.S. military bases in Asia.
Graham, Garcon and Fields will spend one week as league ambassadors to the troops. It’s the first such tour for all three players.
The NFL and USO have combined on such visits for 48 years. In 1966, the NFL teamed with the USO and became the first sports organization to send players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.