New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis confirmed that he will use the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham if the two sides can't reach an agreement on a long-term contract. He will also consider Graham to be a tight end for the tag, rather than a wide receiver.
Graham's rookie deal is up in the offseason, but it's unlikely he will hit the free agent market. Despite his listed position, he played the majority of his snaps as a wide receiver, setting up a potential contract showdown over the spring. The difference between the tight end and receiver franchise tag number is roughly $4.5 million, and the Saints are facing a major salary cap crunch.
However this situation plays out, Graham is headed for a huge payday either way after leading the league with 16 receiving touchdowns in 2013. One of the most important players in New Orleans' offense, the Saints will try to work out an extension with Graham, but they're prepared to use the tag on him if they have do. This would set up a potential game of chicken that may not be resolved until training camp.