Saints notebook: Loomis says Jimmy Graham hearing is expected in about 30 days

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) and New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) confront each other during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Show caption
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) and New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) confront each other during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Jimmy Graham grievance hearing is expected to be heard by an arbiter in approximately 30 days, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis confirmed Saturday.

The crux of the issue is whether Graham should be considered a tight end or a wide receiver for franchise tag purposes. Graham has been tendered as a tight end at $7.05 million for one year, even though he lined up outside or in the slot approximately 67 percent of his snaps, which the NFLPA argues would make him a wide receiver, according to the collective bargaining agreement. If Graham wins, his franchise-tag salary would increase to $12.3 million.

The NFL Management Council and NFL Players Association (which is representing Graham) will argue the merits of the case before an arbiter. Both sides can reach an agreement before the hearing date.

The winner of the hearing would gain significant leverage in future long-term contract negotiations.

Signings of the times

Saints officials considered drafting a quarterback in the later rounds Saturday and likely will sign an undrafted rookie free agent quarterback, coach Sean Payton said.

The team is expected to sign upwards of 20 rookie free agents Saturday and Sunday who will participate in next weekend’s rookie minicamp.

Payton said three Southeastern Conference quarterbacks came up for discussion in the Saints war room Saturday. Two went right before the Saints picked at Nos. 167 and 169 in the fifth round. Kansas City selected Georgia’s Aaron Murray at 163, and Alabama’s AJ McCarron went to Cincinnati one pick later.

LSU’s Zach Mettenberger went to Tennessee two picks into the sixth round at No. 178.

“Those three players were guys we looked closely at and begin to see a value once it got into the later rounds, where our grades were a little bit better than maybe where they were selected,’’ Payton said. “They were in the discussion and talked about.’’

Saints signings began trickling in shortly after the draft ended. None have been confirmed by the Saints, but they include: S Ty Zimmerman (6-foot-1, 202 pounds), Kansas State; RB Tim Flanders (5-9, 210), Sam Houston State; DL Micajah Reynolds (6-5, 307), Michigan State.

What’s in a number?

Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks is just the second player to be selected by the Saints in the 20th slot of the first round. In 1993, the Saints selected Notre Dame tight end Irv Smith after working a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to move up from No. 26.

That year, the Saints also selected future Hall of Fame tackle William Roaf at No. 8 and fullback Lorenzo Neal in the fourth round after trading outside linebacker Pat Swilling to Detroit.

FYI

With the 91st pick of the NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected Pittsburg State wide receiver John Brown. The Cards acquired that pick from the Saints on Thursday that resulted in Cook’s selection. ... With the 242nd pick, the San Francisco 49ers took Boston College defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey. The 49ers acquired that pick from New Orleans in the trade for outside linebacker Parys Haralson in August.

Lagniappe

When Cooks and the Saints eventually come to contractual agreement, he is expected to get a signing bonus of approximately $4.5 million, based on NFLPA projections. ... Saints sixth-round pick Tavon Rooks, a right tackle from Kansas State, celebrated his 24th birthday Saturday.